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How Big Data is changing organ donations and transplants

Thursday, July 31st, 2014 by

For years, the process of becoming an organ donor has been the same. To be registered, a person needs to attend a drive or go out of the way to get a membership card. To this day, 95 percent of those in the United States who donate sign up on yet another frustrating trip to the DMV, the very place most people try to avoid at all costs. Today, there is still a massive shortage of these volunteers in the U.S., an issue that is being addressed using Big Data and cloud computing to make access for donors and those requiring organs easier.

New technology allows those in need to find organs like others check out library books.

New technology allows those in need to find organs like others check out library books.

Diagnosing the volunteer shortage
Activist groups like ORGANIZE.org have worked to promote more organ donor sign ups in the United States as a result of the current shortage. According to a report from Health Data Consortium, 18 patients die in the country every day waiting for an organ that doesn’t come and nearly 120,000 are currently on the national waiting list. In an interview with ORGANIZE.org, founders Greg Segal and Jenna Arnold explained how cloud hosting could change this shortage and increase the rate at which those who need donations receive them.

“There’s plenty of room to increase donation rates; 90 percent of America supports organ donation, yet only 40 percent have registered, which means there are 150 million Americans who support the cause but still haven’t registered,” they expanded.

Although Big Data can be used to find those who haven’t donated, Segal and Arnold suggested using the technology to hone in on the donors who can really help.

“That sounds like a subtle distinction,” they explained to Health Data Consortium, “but only about 1 percent of deaths medically qualify for donation, so the key innovations will be in registering the right people, not just in registering more people.”

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Unpacking “the Internet of Things”

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 by

If you’ve paged through a business or technology magazine in the past several years, you’ve definitely come across the term “Internet of Things” while looking for news on Big Data. But what does it actually mean? Unpacking the term can be a hefty but necessary task to push the cloud computing concept into the zeitgeist, which many believe will happen in the near future.

Deconstructing an oft-confused term and exposing its true meaning.

Deconstructing an oft-confused term and exposing its true meaning.

What is it?
According to Techopedia, the Internet of Things, or IoT, is “a computing concept that describes a future where everyday physical objects will be connected to the Internet and be able to identify themselves to other devices.”

Still sound like a science fiction movie? The truth is, devices are already being programmed and designed with this eventual goal in mind. As Wi-Fi spreads to become more convenient and working across multiple platforms becomes the norm, society will gradually inch closer to being one with the Internet of Things.

“The term is closely identified with RFID [radio-frequency identification] as the method of communication, although it may include other sensor technologies, wireless technologies, or QR codes,” the definition continued.

Consider how cloud hosting already impacts our everyday lives via information sharing on mobile devices as well as interaction with Big Data through the way we are marketed to, how we receive information every day, and the way we consume our media. Technology is becoming ubiquitous: many public spaces are now equipped with Wi-Fi and even our televisions and houses are “smart” enough to interact via security systems, for example. In many ways, we’re already well on our way to achieving this future that sounds straight out of a Hollywood script.

When will it become a reality?

Not surprisingly, there’s no exact answer for when the Internet of Things will be considered complete and normalized in our global culture. First, continual achievement in technology needs to reach a stage where there’s less room for error, and second, industrialization needs to transform the amount of access remote and undeveloped areas have to Internet-friendly devices.

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How Big Data Tells a Story

Thursday, July 24th, 2014 by

Associations with Big Data tend to be pretty clinical – it’s often considered a tool to make more accurate scientific statements, identify trends in social media and news, and develop products by gauging customer response. In other words, the cloud computing tool was largely viewed as a shortcut to making money and creating new offerings for the public, whether that was a breakthrough medication, a new way to communicate wirelessly, or something the world had never even heard of. A less common but equally fascinating use of the technology, however, is as a storytelling mechanism – a capability that can be the most powerful use of all.

As has been the truth in past generations, science and storytelling should coexist in order to remain powerful, a fact that rings true when considering the developing uses of big data.

As in previous generations, science and storytelling need to coexist to remain powerful, a fact that rings true when considering the developing uses of Big Data.

The value of storytelling
The concept of storytelling and the value of its teller is a tradition ingrained in basic human culture that has existed for thousands of years. In generations past, before the written word and widespread publishing of books and magazines, storytellers would enthrall listeners with memorized speeches in the manner of Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” and Homer’s “Odyssey.” A recent piece on the Fast CoCreate blog detailed some of the finer points of this tradition.

“Results repeatedly show that our attitudes, fears, hopes, and values are strongly influenced by story,” the source stated. “In fact, fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than writing that is specifically designed to persuade through argument and evidence.”

These statements have plenty of evidence to back them up – stories sell. The movie and publishing industry bring in billions every year, and even our most prevalent social media tools, especially Facebook, are designed to tell the “story” of a user’s life online by highlighting what events and posts have received the most attention. This is just one example of mass data being boiled down to a basic storyline, but it’s a valuable one. Even Snapchat, the ever-present application that is famous for showing a user an image for a few seconds that disappears shortly thereafter, has introduced the “Snapchat Stories” feature that lets users create a narrative from their brief messages.

How Big Data tells a story with accuracy and impact
There’s no doubt that the science behind Big Data is inescapable, but some data scientists have struggled to transform this information into a palatable story for the everyday user to consume. Jeff Bladt and Bob Filbin, data scientists for the activist charity-driven website Dosomething.org, wrote about this process, with which they’re still constantly experimenting, in a recent issue of Harvard Business Review.

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How Big Data can Help Reduce Pollution

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 by

As Big Data continues to become a part of our everyday lives, new uses for the technology emerge that stand to improve the quality of life for millions of people. Such is potentially the case for the citizens of Beijing as one of the major projects in the field starts to take shape: an initiative to eliminate some of the city’s dangerous smog to improve the health of residents. IBM has announced that this plan will roll out over the next 10 years, with an emphasis on transforming the way air quality is analyzed.

As big data continues to become a part of our everyday lives, new uses for the technology emerge that stand to improve the quality of life for millions of people.

As Big Data continues to become a part of our everyday lives, new uses for the technology emerge that stand to improve the quality of life for millions of people.

Pollution disrupts professional routines and overall health
The pollution in Beijing has not only reduced the life expectancy of those who live in the heart of the city, but its constant presence prevents citizens from enjoying their daily lives. According to a recent piece from Quartz writer Gwynn Guilford, the Chinese government is tasked with shutting down many of the basic operations of the city, including the closure of schools and factories and limiting the number of cars that can safely drive within city limits when PM2.5 concentrations grow too high.

Here’s where the cloud infrastructure comes in. Because Big Data works best when mass amounts of information are collected and then boiled down to deliver a concise result, IBM intends to use the method to learn more about what pollutes the air around Beijing by monitoring changes in the atmosphere.

“Called ‘Green Horizon,’ the project will focus on air quality management, renewable energy management, and energy optimization among Chinese industries,” Guildford explained. “As part of the initiative, IBM has already signed a partnership with the Beijing government, which is hoping to tap into the company’s expertise to help tackle the city’s air pollution crisis.”

Cloud servers will be used to analyze current air quality in the city and identify potential solutions for alternative energy. Reuters writer David Stanway speculated that the biggest source of pollution is likely still smog from factories and cars, and that IBM can probably use the same Big Data tools that identified the problem to find effective solutions. Possible long-term projects might include solar- and wind-powered installations within the city to reduce energy consumption.

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Big Data Revolutionizes the Gaming Industry

Thursday, July 10th, 2014 by

There are few technologies that promise to improve as many different industries as Big Data. Whether it’s medicine or the weather in your backyard, the mass aggregation and analyzing of information could result in marked improvement and insight on nearly anything. The cloud computing technology may even change the way we have fun. It has already had an impressive effect on the video gaming industry and will have a great deal of influence on determining what the runaway hits of tomorrow will be. Here’s are a few small but important insights into the world of the gamer.

There are few technologies out there that can stand to improve so many different industries as big data can.

There are few technologies that promise to improve as many different industries as Big Data.

Big Data observes the user learn the game
The emerging technology offers those marketing and developing video game developers more insight than ever into what makes players tick, what makes them happy, and what keeps them engaged. Any game’s success is directly connected to the “addiction” factor – what is it about a certain game that makes users feel they can’t stop playing, and even more important, how can that feeling be monetized? To study this objective further, each activity must be stripped down to individual characters, levels, and other gameplay features to determine what works and what doesn’t.

Qubole writer Gil Allouche wrote a piece on how Big Data can be used to decide how difficult individual levels should be in future incarnations of any given game. A cloud server can track how long it takes each player to finish a level, indicating whether early levels are too simple and need to be beefed up in difficulty or are discouraging new users because they’re too challenging. Mass amounts of data can help narrow down the right decision for an individual game.

Increasing sales on cloud-based consoles
For nearly all current gaming systems, the Internet and cloud hosting have integrated seamlessly to foster more sales as well as engagement between players on massively popular interactive games. By basing the gaming store online with the ability to be accessed on the console itself, gamers are saved a trip to the store and can download a new experience right to their system in real time, giving them less time to question a decision and dive right into a purchase. Big Data also allows companies to better “recommend” similar games and products to the ones a gamer is already enjoying, increasing the likelihood of sealing a sale.

Real-world examples
EA Games is one of the largest video game developers and distributors on the planet, and announced a new commitment to improving its business model and products with the help of Big Data earlier this year. This will give the company a huge technological advantage, especially when it comes to targeting advertising and maximizing player-to-player interaction in major gaming successes like Activision’s “Call of Duty” franchise and EA’s own “Battlefield” franchise. Silicon Angle, a science and technology blog, reported on the gaming company’s major statement.

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