New analytics software made possible with data visualization
August 27, 2014, by
Unlike computers, our brains aren’t equipped to crunch multiple large numbers simultaneously. This puts us at a disadvantage at analyzing large quantities of data in real time. Thankfully computers are making our job easier, with more advanced data mining tools and data management techniques that can be used for visualizing data, making it easier to understand information.
This process if called data visualization and it’s found embedded in a wide array of new data analysis software. Each software application utilizes its processing power to pull vast pools of numbers together, find the important patterns within them, and make them presentable (and comprehensible) to human users with information visualization.
Here are some of the latest technologies that take advantage of these analysis tools:
Maps for fighting crime.
When police investigate a crime, they have to connect a lot of dots: who knows whom, who was at a certain place at a certain time, who called whose cell phone, which suspect financial accounts are at what bank, etc. Many police departments now use software such as KeyLine to find such connections on short order. They get more leads appear, quickly.
Another experimental program developed at MIT goes a step further and predicts crimes that haven’t happened yet. The program surveys traffic patterns, large congregations of crowds, and other indicators to alert police where they should head next.
Predicting tips before service rendered.
Software engineers from Intetics Geo department and SUNY Stony Brook University constructed a digital taxi-tipping prediction map that calculates how big a tip a New York City taxi passenger will pay the driver. The map views the records of millions of previous taxi transactions and matches them with the mean family income, frequency of generous tipping, and number of trips within each ZIP code.
Tools for exploring the housing market.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has launched a set of free online data analysis tools that projects mortgage data for any U.S. municipality. Potential homebuyers can look up their communities to find which lenders are serving their areas, what the homes are selling for, and how the housing prices and mortgages have changed over time.
Roads that should remain less traveled.
Some roads in the developing world are less safe than others. And some are simply un-drivable. For tourists who like to venture off the beaten path, drivingexperiences.com has an app that draws from World Health Organization reports on road safety to tell them which roadways to avoid.
Shining a light on political corruption.
Ugandan public officials and civil activists are working together to root out misuses of public funds. The task is somewhat easier thanks to the Action for Transparency Program, a software-based initiative launched under the guidance of the nonprofit political-reform organization Transparency International. This program publishes data on government-funded projects and the funds allocated to each one, while a network of more than 2,000 trained journalists and activists all look for entries that appear suspect—i.e., the funds were never disbursed, the amounts do not make sense, etc. Any participant who sees a suspect entry can instantly report it via the app’s “whistleblower” function.
A big-picture view of public health.
A team at the Ontario College of Art and Design is developing a data visualization tool that could channel data sets on diagnoses and disease trends from multiple hospitals across North America, and generate a variety of two-dimensional or three-dimensional illustrations of the data. The designers intend for the tool to be useful to everyone: doctors, health researchers, health-system administrators, and even patients. The data sets could offer a starting point for understanding certain health conditions, developing new theories about them, and eventually for finding new strategies for treatment and prevention.
Following the runners.
Many runners use the mobile-phone app RunKeeper to track their daily jog routes. Statistician Nathan Yau from FlowingData sampled data from multiple RunKeeper apps to create maps of 22 major cities and runner activity in each one. The maps depict foot traffic as concentric lines that run thicker or thinner depending on how many runners hit the particular streets and how often they do so. The designer touts these maps as not only visually intriguing, but also potentially useful for city planners who want to design future running paths and bike lanes.
Creating your own charts and tables.
You don’t need to be a public official, researcher, or civic activist to benefit from data visualization technology. A growing plethora of consumer visualizer software products are rolling out just for private consumers. They include Wolfram Alpha, Visualize Free, and Instant Atlas, among many more. Got a project that needs some charts? These tools will put them together for you. Want to auto-generate a map? They can do this, too. If there is a field of some kind of data, they will assemble it into a reader-friendly, approachable structure just right for our human eyes.
Of course, if in depth statistical analysis is required, it might be a good idea to leave it to the experts, or you might end up with results that suggest that declining marriage rate in Illinois is due to decreasing consumption of whole milk, or other spurious correlations.
What role does GIS play in data visualization? Download this white paper for a glimpse of how GIS technologies are used in Ukraine.
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Image courtesy of Idaho National Laboratory via Flickr.
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