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10 Bits: The Data News Hotlist

by Daniel Castro
WePod self-driving electric shuttle

This week’s list of data news highlights covers September 19-25, 2015 and includes articles about the Netherlands first self-driving electric shuttle and a non-profit’s efforts to use predictive analytics to reduce dropout rates in Rwanda.

1. Helping Schools Make Better Use of Student Data

The Boston Public Schools system has become the latest school district to start using Clever, a software service that simplifies how teachers and school administrators share student data securely with various math and reading apps that their students use at home and in the classroom. The service integrates with the school district’s existing student information systems, saving teachers from having to manually transfer data to each educational app they use and making it easier for developers to build new services. Students can then access district-approved apps through an online portal.

2. Using Open Data to Prevent Fire Tragedies

The New York-based startup Enigma has launched “Smoke Signals,” a search engine that helps predict which homes do not have smoke alarms so that government agencies and non-profit organizations can target their outreach programs accordingly. The company initially created the tool for New Orleans, after five people in that city died in a fire last year, but it has now expanded to major cities across the United States. The tool uses data from the American Housing Survey and the American Community Survey.

3. China Goes Big on Big Data

China has launched its first pilot zone for big data in the southwestern province of Guizhou. As a pilot zone, the province will build a cloud-based big data platform designed to allow provincial governments to easily store and exchange their data, as well as provide a testbed to improve data sharing and security capabilities. The region has proved popular for Chinese companies investing in big data due to its moderate climate, sufficient power supply, and good network infrastructure. For example, one Chinese technology company based in the region is using big data analytics to forecast rainfall and help optimize reservoir operations to improve water conservation.

4. Reducing Dropout Rates in Rwanda with Big Data

Half of student absenteeism in developing countries is caused by parents being unable to pay school fees on time. Opportunity International, a non-profit organization whose mission is to combat global poverty, is piloting a new scholarship program in Rwanda to assist parents with their children’s educational expenses. The program uses data on parents’ payment histories, students’ academic histories, and family needs to identify children who are at risk of dropping out and provide their families targeted aid.

5. Empowering Patients with Personalized Healthcare Costs

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, whose 36 independent member companies collectively represent one of the largest healthcare insurers in the United States, has announced that it is forming a massive database of healthcare costs and quality data. The database, called BCBS Axis, will contain data on approximately 2.3 billion medical procedures conducted annually by 540,000 physicians at more than 20,000 health care facilities. Consumers will be able to use the database to obtain better outcomes and more affordable care.

6. Learning Which TV Episodes Get Audiences Hooked

Netflix, the video streaming service, analyzed the viewing patterns for the first season of the 25 most-watched TV series in its catalog to determine the episode at which users fully committed to a particular TV show. For example, the company found that 70 percent or more of viewers who watched two episodes of “Breaking Bad” would watch the rest of the season, but it took viewers eight episodes before they were hooked on “How I Met Your Mother.” Netflix uses data on viewing patterns to determine how much to invest in original programming and licensing shows.

7. United Nations Embraces Data for Development

The United Nations General Assembly formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which identifies 17 goals and 169 targets to eliminate poverty, fight inequality, and address climate change over the next 15 years. The new goals build on the Millennium Development Goals that have guided the global agenda for the past 15 years. In his address, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on global leaders to “embrace a data revolution” to reach these goals and targets.

8. Dutch Region First to Debut Driverless Shuttles on Public Roads

The world’s first self-driving electric shuttle will be launched in the Netherlands later this year. Passengers will be able to book a ride using an app between the two towns of Wageningen and Ede, and the shuttle will carry up to six passengers at a time. Although other cities have autonomous shuttles in operation, this will be the first time the shuttle will be driving on public roads with normal human traffic.

9. Telecom Builds Network for Smart Cities in France

Orange, the French telecom, has announced plans to launch a network dedicated to the Internet of Things. The network will eventually cover all metropolitan areas of France and will use a networking standard designed to allow battery-operated devices to transmit small amounts of data over a long range with low power consumption. The company already tested the technology as part of a pilot project in Grenoble earlier this year.

10. Never Get Locked Out of the Office Again

Brivo, a company that makes physical access control systems for buildings, has launched a new app that allows any of its existing 7 million customers to use their mobile phone to open locked doors using their existing hardware. The mobile app eliminates the need for access keycards which can easily be damaged, misplaced, or lost. In addition, using mobile credential allows building managers to issue temporary access to a visitor, such as someone trying out a gym membership.

Image: WePods.nl


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