The Human Face of Big Data
A book published recently by Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt takes a peek at big data projects and advancements around the country and the world with vivid pictures and brief stories about them. Here, we pulled out a few that we thought were especially interesting, many with strong local ties. Flip through the slides to see how big data is being used to make big changes.
Bluefin analyses social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to come to conclusions about how television viewers feel about what they see. For example, when JC Penny’s ad campaign aired during the Oscars featuring Ellen DeGeneres, Bluefin Labs revealed that the responses were “overwhelmingly positive’’ despite DeGeneres’ sexual orientation. The company can spit out real-time data ranging from audience reactions to favorite brands, and how well the ads do based on location.
Pathogencia was founded in 2009 and develops inexpensive tools that it hopes will help identify pathogens, drug resistance genes, and toxins in patient samples. In May, the company launched its first product, the Pathogen Hospital Aquired Infection (HAI) BioDetection Kit. According to the company, the kit can test more than a dozen pathogens and 15 reistance gene families in a single procedure, testing up to 12 of those samples at a time. The product is made in order to track common hospital-aquired infections.
The Boston Project
San Francisco-based Code for America operates eight sites across the country aimed to connect web deesigners and developers to local and state governments, but Boston has been flagged as one of the most sucessful. The site developed a mapping and content application to expediate the process for parents trying to get their children into different public schools. The program has been picked up by school systems around the country.
Intel-GE Care Innovations is working on a smart carpet that would be used in the homes of elderly people. It takes a week for the carpet to observe and learn a person’s daily routine. After that the system checks for sudden or gradual changes in that routine so that if someone doesn’t leave their room or is moving around more slowly than usual, a family member or physician will be alerted.
In 2004 after Operation Fallen Hero, a group of PayPal veterans made software tools that could quickly grab data from several sources into one resource. Over the past eight years, the tools have assisted in the arrest of 700 crime suspects as well helping agents to confiscate 467 kilograms of cocaine, 64 pounds of methamphetamine and 282 weapons.
Farmers of the future
Companies like Cambridge-based Monsanto are creating hardware and software to plant and fertilize crops “with surgical precision’’ in order to increase yields. Shown is Jeff Hodel, a farmer in Illinois who manages 6,000 acres of corn and soybeans.
Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers
Jeffrey Brenner, founder of the program, used big data to see where the money going into the health care system is being spent. Brenner analyzed patterns from records of 600,000 hospital visits and found that 1 percent of patients accounted for 30 percent of hospital bills due to repeat visits. The coalition now dispatches caseworkers to encourage patients with the most problems to stay on their medication and used other strategies to prevent trips to the emergency room.
Human Speechome Project
MIT Media Lab’s Deb Roy tracked his son’s language acquisition from birth in 2005 to his third birthday. The home Roy and his wife raised their son had 11 video camera, 14 microphones, and thousands of feet of cable that generated 200 gigabytes of data each day. The data is still be analyzed, but findings have so far drawn connections between everyday routine and how the child learned his first words.
Sheila Nirenberg and her team at Weill Cornell Medical College used high-speed, parallel processing computers to embed custom software to be built into eyeglasses. Cameras on the glasses will translate images into code that can be recognized by the brain and form images that would allow a blind person to see images almost as clear as natural vision.
Cambridge-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation have teamed up to analyze millions of chemical compounds to decode the DNA of people suffering from cystic fibrosis. The research narrowed subjects into three possible drug candidates and came up with Kalydeco, a drug that treats an underlying cause of the disease for those with the G551D mutation.
When he was a fellow at Microsoft in about 2000, Gordon Bell decided to go paperless. He digitized his books, papers, personal photographs and memorabilia into an autobiography called MyLifeBits. Today, he includes conversations, his location, what TV shows he watches, and records of his heartbeat and cholesterol in order to “life-log’’ and show the power of storage and recording devices as he comes up with new ways to sift through all the data.