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10 Bits: the Data News Hotlist

by Joshua New
Formula 1 Racing

This week’s list of data news highlights covers November 28 – December 4, 2015 and includes articles about how Wikipedia is using artificial intelligence to encourage user participation and a new racing league for autonomous vehicles.

1. Tracking the Progress of Patents

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has developed Dossier Access, an online tool that allows users to monitor in real time the status of patents filed at the five largest patent offices in the world: China’s State Intellectual Property Office, the European Patent Office, the Japan Patent Office, the Korean Intellectual Property Office, and USPTO. Dossier Access relies on a database and algorithm developed by the European patent office to link serial numbers of patents filed at multiple patent offices, making it easier for inventors to manage their patent applications, which they may file at multiple patent offices around the world. By simplifying the patent application process, USPTO hopes to reduce the high legal fees involved in filing patents.

2. Making Wikipedia More Trustworthy With Artificial Intelligence

Online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which any user can edit, has implemented an artificial intelligence system that can detect the difference between vandalism—when users deliberately add false information to a page—and edits that may be factually incorrect, but made in good faith. With this system, Wikipedia hopes to encourage greater user participation and contribution while simultaneously maintaining the integrity of its articles and cracking down on bad actors.

3. Connecting Government Vehicles to the Internet of Things

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has partnered with AT&T to install telematics systems—connected devices that can collect transmit data such as location tracking and vehicle diagnostics—on its vehicles, which are leased by 75 other government agencies. The partnership is part of GSA’s response to a March 2015 executive order to improve federal agency sustainability by reducing the greenhouse emissions of the federal fleet by at least 30 percent. With this telematics system, agencies will be able to analyze vehicle use patterns, improve route efficiency, and better manage vehicle maintenance, all of which can help the government reduce fuel consumption and cut costs.       

4. Making Cities More Accessible for the Visually Impaired

The London Underground will deploy Wayfindr, a digital navigation system that uses small Bluetooth beacons to triangulate a user’s position and provide directions with audio instructions, in Euston Station, a large public transportation hub. Wayfindr was successfully piloted in spring 2014 at a smaller station. The Wayfindr team will use data collected by the Euston Station installment to further refine the technology and begin developing open standards to encourage developers to build improved navigation systems.

5. Self-Driving Cars Go to the Races

Formula E, the division of auto racing for electric vehicles, has partnered with automotive company Kinetik to launch Roborace, a racing series for autonomous vehicles. Roborace will feature 10 teams, including a crowd-sourced community team, of electric vehicles driving at speeds Formula E estimates will reach nearly 200 miles per hour. By testing autonomous vehicles in this capacity, teams will have a competitive incentive to advance autonomous vehicle research, such as developing software capable of rapidly transmitting and analyzing data from vehicles moving at high speeds over large distances, which could translate to improvements to consumer applications of the technology. The first Roborace events are scheduled for the 2016-2017 season.

6. Improving New York City’s Open Data

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a package of bills to improve the usability of the city’s open data portal. The bills—five in total—impose new measures to preserve certain data at risk of removal; define standards for breaking large, cumbersome data sets into smaller parts; require the creation of a plain language glossary so users can better understand attributes of data sets; require agencies to respond to open data requests within two months; develop standards for address data; and apply these new rules to all copies of the city’s open data, both inside the open data portal and elsewhere.

7. Collecting Data on Trust in Law Enforcement

A new bill introduced in the U.S. Congress called the Tracking Reputations Upgrades Societal Trust (TRUST) Act would modify the Justice Department’s National Crime Victimization Survey, which provides valuable data on crime statistics, to include questions about trust in law enforcement. Expanding the survey to collect this data would enable lawmakers to make more informed policy changes in communities where trust in law enforcement is troublingly low. The TRUST Act is designed to fulfill the recommendation of the Obama administration’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing to improve policing by building community trust.

8. Sequencing the Microbiome like a Genome

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has partnered with startup uBiome to develop the Microbiome Disruption Index, a method of measuring the impact of medical treatments on the composition of human gut microbes, known as the microbiome. CDC will provide uBiome with stool samples from hospital patients and uBiome will analyze the bacterial DNA in the samples to determine the makeup of a patient’s microbiome, which can provide insight into health-related factors such susceptibility to particular diseases. Though microbiome sequencing costs are high, CDC is developing the Microbiome Disruption Index in hopes that it could serve as a useful tool as prices fall and it becomes feasible to use data about patient microbiomes to guide healthcare decisions.

9. Protecting Mental Health with Biometric Data

Researchers at Federation University in Australia are developing a personalized system called LIFE FLeX that can predict potential declines in mental health with biometric data from wearable devices and trigger proactive interventions. LIFE FLeX relies on algorithms that can detect changes in biophysical activity, such as heart rate, sleeping patterns, and skin temperature indicative of a potential emotional decline caused by depression or anxiety, days before it happens. If LIFE FLeX predicts a user is at risk, it can proactively send the user therapeutic tools via a smartphone app. Researchers will begin testing the effectiveness of LIFE FLeX’s automatic interventions in May 2016.

10. Deciding the Future of All-Payer Healthcare Claims Databases

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual case, which will decide the legality of the state of Vermont’s requirements for insurance companies, including self-insured plans, to report claims data for a statewide database. Vermont and 17 other states have implemented these rules to collect the data necessary for comprehensive analysis of healthcare costs and patient outcomes, however insurance company Liberty Mutual claims that Vermont has no authority to make it turn over any data from self-insured plans.

Image: Morio. 


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