Monthly Archives: March 2017

Preventing Crime Using Predictive Analytics

In the 2002 futuristic movie “Minority Report,” Tom Cruise heads up a police division called PreCrime. This unit uses predictive analysis collected from mutants to arrest the would-be criminal before the crime is committed. The movie is set in 2054 and while I don’t think we have crime fighting mutants among us, we do have computers that make predictive analysis in police work a reality in 2017.

Predictive Analysis

Predictive analysis uses data mining, statistics, computer modeling, and machine learning to predict future events. This can help companies or agencies to better position a product launch or develop a business continuity plan. It can also help them forecast demand for products or services. Retail stores have used this science for years to plan for resources based on a number of factors such as the day of the week, day of the year, weather, and other data points. Dunkin’ Donuts, for example, uses same day sales for the last year as a factor in deciding how many donuts to start on any given day. This helps to reduce waste from too much product and ensures that a customer can always get a French cruller at the end of a busy day.

PredPol

This same predictive analysis is being applied to crime prevention. Predpol is an advanced analytics application that police agencies in California, Maryland, Florida, Georgia, Washington and elsewhere are using. The software collects three historical data points: past type of crime, place of crime, and time of crime.

Through historical analysis, Predpol developers have discovered that there is a pattern to crime and criminals and by mining for those three data points the application can predict where crime is likely to occur in the future. There is no personally identifiable information collected or used so as to prevent biases or profiling. Once the predictive analysis is complete, police assign extra patrols to discourage crime where it is expected. Police report this application does indeed help reduce crime in their jurisdictions. This is a case of advanced analytics being used for positive results in communities.

Counterpoint

To be fair, the output is only as good as the data entered. Information analysts often refer to this as “garbage in, garbage out.” Software such as Predpol and other applications rely on clean, accurate data to predict future hotspots. In a recent blog post from the Council On Foreign Relations, the authors argue that not all crimes are reported so these tools are limited because they start with an incomplete data set, which results in inaccurate or limited information about future crimes. Police go back to the areas where crimes were reported but miss other obvious opportunities because they lack a full data picture. It is important to factor in other data points in order to understand the full picture.

Thoughts

There will most likely be some pushback from people concerned about profiling of a particular neighborhood or audience, but with reasonably clean and unbiased data collection tools such as these can aid law enforcement agencies in fighting crime and creating safer communities.

Do you have other examples of data analytics that is helping to solve real world problems? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

STEAM: Adding Arts to STEM Education

I have written in the past about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education for young people. I am a big advocate of STEM learning and participate in events when possible. I think it is important for everyone to be grounded in the sciences and math to be able to work in our increasingly complex world. It is nice to know how to use an app or a particular software but it is even better to know how it works, especially when it mysteriously fails and you need to try to fix it.

Lately, I have been seeing the term STEAM, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. In other words, arts inserted into STEM. To be honest, I was skeptical when I first started seeing this term because it felt like the arts were jumping on a bandwagon they were not supposed to be part of. In this post I will explore the origins of STEM and how we got from STEM to STEAM and the value of adding arts education.

Origins of STEM

The Russian satellite Sputnik launch in 1957 started a rivalry with America for technical superiority on earth and in space. America thought that it should be first in terms of smart scientists and mathematicians. The U.S. developed plans to place a man on the moon and in July, 1969, realized that vision and regained superiority in the space race. Growing up in the 1960s, we all wanted to be astronauts and we studied the necessary disciplines to get us into space. Science and math were fundamental. Computer development in the ‘80s and ‘90s kept technical subjects in the forefront. Programming, math, and electronics were important and exciting.

The National Science Foundation coined the term STEM in 2001 to refer to a renewed emphasis in teaching technical disciplines. Surveys showed that American education was slipping compared to other countries and we were losing that superiority we fought so hard to gain in the 1960s. STEM renewed the emphasis on science education in order to stay on top.

STEM to STEAM

The Rhode Island School of Design championed the term STEAM in an attempt to include art and design with the traditional STEM subjects. They are working to promote this transition with educational institutions around the country. A recent article in the Tech Edvocate did a good job of advocating for this move. Traditional STEM subjects are analytical or left-brained by nature whereas art and design and creativity and spatial awareness all come from the right hemisphere of the brain. In order to create a holistic or whole brained approach to teaching STEM subjects, we need to call on our powers of analysis and visualization. This makes sense to me. A recent conversation with school-age youth brought up the same points. Instead of arts trying to tag along with STEM, this is a way to actively incorporate other methods of learning into technical subjects.

Thoughts

If we are deliberate and thoughtful about adding art, design, and visualization exercises into traditional STEM curriculum, then I think it can be a plus for the student. It will help them navigate both hemispheres of the brain in order to turn out a more creative product. What are your thoughts? Is STEAM a good idea or will it detract from the STEM emphasis.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.

Robot Companions for Seniors

Photograph of smiling elderly woman using a tablet computer.Medical technology is allowing us to live longer but increased longevity also means more of us will live alone. Our average life expectancy is rising but we will not all live to be 100 or older. For seniors living alone, there are now solutions to help with basic living, scheduling, and social tasks that can help keep them independent.

Robot Companions

Isolation is a problem for many people living alone. They may be unable to get out to interact with other people or they simply may have no desire to do so. This is where robots could help. Intuition Robotics has recently introduced ElliQ, an artificial intelligence (AI) robot that interacts with seniors. While this robot does not have traditional arms and legs it is designed to keep seniors in touch with others and help them track appointments and even suggest activities. Most importantly, it works through a natural speech interface. It communicates through a combination of lights and sounds and voice. Because it incorporates machine learning, or AI, it learns habits and preferences and helps set and remember daily schedules and routines.

ElliQ is designed to be a fixed robot but other robots, such as Softbank’s Pepper, are mobile. At this time it can only carry the built-in tablet which acts as its interface, but it can follow or get to people who are less mobile. This is a relatively new device that is starting to be used in retail shops to interact with customers.

Robokind has developed Milo, which is a combination of ElliQ and Pepper but with more humanlike limbs and facial expressions. It accepts voice input and interacts with people through natural voice output and body language. Milo is being touted for seniors and those living alone and for people on the autism spectrum who can benefit from his personal interaction.

Possibilities

I can think of other benefits of these robots. They could aid and encourage music practice. For example, they could be programmed to be a metronome while I practice an instrument. Better yet, they could provide another part of the music that I am playing. For example, if I play the guitar, perhaps the robot could play bass violin or another part to accompany me. Another use could be practicing or learning a foreign language. With the right programming, the robot could provide many components of good language learning courses—lessons, immersion, repetitive practice, immediate feedback and correction.

All of these things keep the mind active and hopefully slow the inevitable aging process. Repetitive tasks such as music or language lessons can increase brain activity and general life satisfaction. With the aid of technology, those extra years can be rich and rewarding.

Thoughts

Can you think of other applications that would help seniors, particularly those living alone? Will robot apps become a new industry? Let me know your thoughts.

Author Kelly BrownAbout Kelly Brown

Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.