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Data Science: The Endless Possibilities

With continuing advancements in computational power and the collection and processing of data, the world is seeing new and exciting uses for data analytics. From charitable ventures to “smart” homes, the FIFA World Cup and climate change, the examples are endless. Here are a few of my favorites:

Help for distressed teens: Started by Nancy Lublin, the Crisis Text Line (CTL) is a program designed to help teenagers in need. The movement was inspired by America’s largest non-profit for youth called DoSomething.org. Their texting campaigns had such an overwhelming response from distressed young people that Lubin saw an opportunity to make a difference with data science. The CTL system uses data products and dashboards to help counselors develop more catered responses, as well as make calculated predictions around text volume and counselor effectiveness.

Crime prevention: The Philadelphia Police have adopted a new form of fighting crime. By introducing a data science program into their training, they have taught selected police officers how to better identify at-risk areas in the city. Their analytical approach and use of statistically-supported estimates have been successful in lowering home burglaries and capturing fugitives. The result of their success is leading to a higher number of police officer/data scientist hybrids, a mix that may have seemed unlikely in the past. As awareness and success continues to grow we are likely to see more law enforcement agencies adopt similar methods.

Sports enhancement: It is no secret that most sports are data driven. Using numbers and statistics to help with predictions and betting has always been a favorable method. But now the teams themselves are getting serious about using data to better their game strategy and players performance. Before the last FIFA World Cup Germany coupled with SAP AG to create an analytical tool called “Match Insights”. On-field cameras capture thousands of data points per second and send it to the SAP database to be analyzed. Insights around strategy and players performances are then sent back to the coaches via their mobile devices. Being able to ingest and quickly process such a high volume of data allows coaches to strategize and re-adjust DURING the game, rather than applying the feedback afterwards. Tools like this will change the future of sports.

Fun with plants and eggless egg products: Dan Zigmond, Google maps’ former lead data scientist, recently signed on with Hampton creek, a startup that makes eggless egg products. Zigmond was attracted to the opportunity because of the data challenges their next project offered. Hampton Creek is set out to make the world’s largest plant library. In doing so, they will organize and analyze all of the available plant data in order to have a better understanding of food-related properties in plants. The use of data in this instance will open up doors for vegans, vegetarians, and those with food allergies.

Are you happy and you know it?: Determining happiness in other people may be considered subjective or relative to many, but not to the people at www.hedonometer.org. Peter Dodds and Chris Danforth developed a tool that gauges the level of happiness in people as it relates to things like twitter use, blog readings, song lyrics and novels. It uses an algorithm based on emotions captured in wording to determine how people are feeling and receiving information. This is one of the more unique forms of data science I have come across. Its effectiveness is up for debate, but its neat factor isn’t.



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