Data Tells a Story: the war on obfuscation; weather hunters; surviving the zombie apocalypse


We at Inform believe that data tells a story, across all industries, and every week we’ll be rounding up the most interesting ones right here. This week: the war on obfuscation; hunting for weather; surviving the zombie apocalypse.

A Mexican startup has pieced together the elusive data behind the country’s secretive drug war

The drug war in Mexico has been making headlines for the past four decades. However, what’s been lacking is consistent data that helps “Mexicans understand their country’s brutal cartels—or how effective their elected officials have been at combating them.” A start up in Mexico called Animal Político is trying to provide that data.

Animal Político has their work cut out for them. While a new transparency law was enacted in May, many documents still remain classified — 12 out of 15 million to be exact. In February the UN chided Mexico for its lack of precise statistics on kidnappings, especially significant in light of the kidnapping of 43 students.

Only two of Animal Político’s more than 12 requests for government documents were fulfilled — “several pages of blurry PDFs” — but from there the start up was able to build several interactive visualizations “detailing turf wars and cartel-affiliated armed groups.”

How Brands Are Using Data to Drive Personalized Context In-Store

Some retail stores are leveraging the ubiquity of mobile devices and the availability of data to create personalized experiences for their customers in-store and in real time. As a result, potential buyers might get hyper-relevant recommendations, in-the-moment deals, and in general another layer of context around their shopping experience.

One store tracks what products customers bring into the fitting room and recommends complementary products in real-time or as a follow up. Another retailer allows customers to check in with their PayPal apps and browse via screen, after which an associate gathers the items and texts the customer once a fitting room is available. RFID tags on the merchandise provide up-to-date inventory, and smart mirrors in the fitting rooms allow customers to request other sizes or items.

IBM Works With The Weather Company To Track Earth’s Big Data Atmosphere

IBM and The Weather Company are teaming up to offer 100% accurate meteorological predictions three days ahead of time, based on the “massive” amounts of data The Weather Channel is already collecting.

The Weather Channel’s “data space” is so huge because it goes from “the surface of the Earth all the way around the globe up to the top of the atmosphere,” which is about 100 kilometers high. Later on, social media data points might also come into play, similar to the way the US Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center is using earthquake-related tweets to improve quake detection.

Alien hunters turn to IBM and big data tool in hunt for ET

While The Weather Channel hunts the skies for weather, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute is looking heavenward for signs of alien life, and using big data to do so.

SETI has access to a large amount of data gathered by the Allen Telescope Array and analyzes that data to find radio signals “that differ from background astrophysical and human signals.” As a result of listening to signals for four years, the institute has a robust database of signals identified as interference from “humans and non-alien source,” which they then can compare to signals that are out of the ordinary.

Baltimore could probably survive zombie apocalypse, data show

If a virus-based zombie apocalypse should ever hit, apparently one of the best places to be is Baltimore.

CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. analyzed various data points to rank cities in terms of zombie apocalypse survivability. The companies used eight criteria, including defendability against the zombie virus, means for containing the virus, likelihood of finding a cure, and a sufficient food supply to outlast the epidemic.

How did they measure such criteria? For a city’s ability to defend against the virus, they analyzed “the percentage of the area’s population in the military, law enforcement, firefighting and security,” and “percentage of total exports coming from small arms manufacturing industries.” For likelihood of curing the virus, percentage of bio-medical research and professionals was analyzed.

Only more likely than Baltimore to survive are Boston, Salt Lake City, and Columbus. The number one least likely? New York.

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