A Sunday’s Worth of Numbers: Data Analytics on the Airwaves

August 11, 2010
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3441169791 c8bcd773c0 t photo (business analytics)

3441169791 c8bcd773c0 t photo (business analytics)

Three intriguing data analytics-related stories turned up recently on two radio shows, on one Sunday.  Honestly—what are the odds?

First, NPR’s The Future According To ‘Minority Report’ May Be Now noted some emerging uses of predictive analytics in everyday life.  The story includes an update on Blue CRUSH, a program developed by the Memphis police to predict where and when crimes are most likely to occur, based on accumulated data.  They use this information to tune deployment of forces—and the results so far have been stellar.  According to a recent Computerworld story, since 2006 (when the program was implemented) the Memphis Police Department “has seen an 863% return on its investment and cut serious crimes by 15.8%,” according to a study by Nucleus Research Inc. 

Next, On the Media ran two related stories about the use and abuse of statistics.  In Sex, Drugs, and Body Counts, Peter Andreas talks about his book by the same name, which examines “the politics of numbers in global crime and conflict.”  Andreas describes problems with data—and data interpretation—that will be familiar to anyone who works with analytics in business:  How good is the data?  Where did it come from?  And what does it mean?  Those same challenges confront governments, non-governmental organizations, researchers, and journalists, according to Andreas, and they can result in a disturbing amount of misinformation.

On the Media follows up with Prime Number, exploring how and why the number 50,000 is so often used to quantify something (such as the number of child pornographers) for which there is no real data.  One of the guests is Carl Bialik, whose Wall Street Journal column The Numbers Guy is likely to interest anyone who works with data.

Thanks to the magic of podcasting, you can check out these Sunday number stories any day of the week.  Worth a listen!

Post by Cynthia Giles
Spotfire Blogging Team

Image Credit: Flickr by JR Correa