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10 Bits: The Data News Hotlist

by Martin Makaryan

This week’s list of top data news highlights covers April 20, 2024 to April 26, 2024 and includes articles on enhancing school safety and creating early warning systems for tsunamis in the Pacific.

1. Creating Novel Gene Editors

A Berkeley-based startup called Profluent has used AI to develop new gene editors, which are tools that allow scientists to make changes to the genetic material of organisms. CRISPR, the current gene editing technology, uses mechanisms found in nature but the new system leverages large language models (LLMs) trained on vast biological data to design novel microscopic mechanisms that have never existed on Earth.

2. Improving Ballot Transparency

The Ada County Clerk in Idaho and a team of election experts have created a first-of-a-kind tool called “ballot verifier” that gives the public access to records of all the ballots cast in every election countywide since 2022. The ballot verifier can show users images of cast ballots without identifying information and can be sorted by precinct, contest or candidate. The goal of the initiative is to increase voting transparency and combat growing distrust in election integrity among the voters.

3. Reducing Administrative Burdens

Thailand is implementing a new electronic system to simplify the administrative processes for businesses who need public services. The new digital system allows businesses to submit required paperwork electronically, eliminating paper documents and enabling the ten government agencies implementing the program to save on costs associated with retrieving documents. 

4. Improving Underwater Drones

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is using machine learning tools to accelerate software updates to unmanned underwater drones. Implementing these tools, which analyze data and patterns to automate software-related tasks and make predictive recommendations, has reduced the turnaround time for required updates to softwares that operate the underwater drones from six months to less than two weeks.

5. Improving Tsunami Warning Systems

The United Kingdom is partnering with New Zealand to launch a new project that will use undersea telecommunication cables and quantum computing systems to create advanced early warning systems for tsunamis. The initiative seeks to provide early warning to coastal communities in the Pacific Ocean between Australia and New Zealand where tsunamis and earthquakes are common.

6. Warning of Asthma Attacks

A researcher at the University of Texas at Dallas has developed a deep learning algorithm that can automatically send an alarm to a patient, warning them of the onset of asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. The algorithm monitors a patient’s breathing in real time and analyzes the frequency of wheezes to predict breathing that would indicate asthmatic symptoms. 

7. Enhancing School Safety

A Florida-based nonprofit called Safe Schools for Alex has partnered with the University of Florida to release the first school safety dashboard in the country, helping parents and schools track safety concerns. The dashboard includes rates of violence, disciplinary responses like suspension and expulsion, public health concerns, and other indicators in schools throughout Florida. 

8. Streamlining Travel

Saudi Arabia’s national airline Saudia has partnered with consulting firm Accenture to create a digital platform called Travel Companion that simplifies the flight booking process and offers additional travel services, such as accommodation and dining. Travel Companion uses an AI algorithm to make personalized recommendations to travelers and will offer voice commands and digital payment options in the future.

9. Streamlining Homebuying

An Ohio-based real estate technology company called reAlpha Tech has launched a free smart homebuyer assistant tool called Claire that can guide homebuyers throughout the entire process. The tool, which is currently available in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, and Broward Counties, uses generative AI to power home search, provide insights into market trends and property values, and automate the bookings for property tours. 

10. Increasing Data Access

Research Data Scotland (RDS), a nonprofit, has launched a new data portal that will give researchers from approved organizations secure access to nine of the most commonly used health datasets. The data currently includes information on hospital admissions, prescribing, emergency attendances, and births, but the plan is to work with data controllers who can provide data on education, social work, and justice.

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