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5 world problems too big for Big Data

John Brandon | Nov. 1, 2013
Despite advances in computing power, storage and analytics technology, some challenges are still too big for big data. Here's a look at five such problems -- and what it will take to solve them.

Keith Cooper, CEO of data collection company Connotate, says we've only addressed part of the problem, as some countries don't publicize all their supply records. "There are large stockpiles around the world that were enriched prior to the advent of the Internet and would have escaped reporting standards in place today." Fortunately, calculating the big picture isn't difficult, as countries using uranium for weaponization are small in number.

What really needs to be tracked in order to understand the global supply available, he says, is the 15 percent of enriched uranium that's the most valuable. "We would need to identify and track all activities related to the sale (black market or legal) and distribution of uranium via forums, blogs, regulatory bodies, statistics around it, production data and mining activity all reported from NGOs and government agencies. Some form of human and machine intelligence must be run against the corpus of results."

Real-time Global Crime Data: More Proactive Policing
Many local law enforcement agencies already have a wealth of crime data at their disposal. Police officers can easily access their database of crime records from the squad car and react to a suspect accordingly.

The problem? The data only includes past crimes, Cloudant's Miller says, not crimes that have just recently taken place or are even in process. Instead of responding to crimes as they occur, police are forced to serve a more reactionary mode.

But that's changing, Miller says. For example, police in Oakland, Calif. have set up acoustic monitors to identify gun shots. Technology called ShotSpotter then uses big data analytics to triangulate the location of a potential crime, and police are dispatched in real-time. The benefits of accurate, real-time crime data extend beyond law enforcement, too: The Trulia Local heat maps now show crime reports to help people buying a home choose a safe neighborhood.

Tracking Everyone's Children: Better, More Timely Amber Alerts
There are ways to report a missing child today, such as the Amber Alert system in the United States, but these notifications occur after the fact. The technology to track the current location of a child is already here. Many smartphones can send a child's location to a parent using a service such as Google Location Reporting (formerly Google Latitude). Meanwhile, Volkswagen's Car-Net and Ford's MyKey apps can report when teen drives leave a specific geofenced area.

What's missing? Analytics. Jaison Manian, a vice president at digital marketer Roundarch Isobar, says predictive technologies could help. A big data company could analyze a child's behavior patterns, as long as parents are willing to share that data, of course.


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