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New project to help deaf people clobber criminals with BIG data

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A scheme to help deaf and hard-of-hearing people call the cops has been named as one of three finalists in a government-sponsored big data competition.

A trio of projects have made it to the final of the criminal justice section of the Open Data Challenge Series, which invites ideas on how to solve society's problems using big numbers. Each of the three contestants have been handed £5,000 to develop their project, with the overall winner given £40,000 after a final decision in February.

The second scheme is a stolen bike database imaginatively called Stolen Bikes UK, which helps pedal pushers find out if the two-wheeled steed they are buying was nicked from someone else. According to Nesta, this could help clamp down on an illicit industry worth £126m.

In a similar vein, the third scheme is called Total Car Check and allows drivers to pull the same trick, drawing on information within the DVLA's bulk data set and stolen vehicle database.

So where does big data fit into the police project? Well, it uses geolocation data, which allows people who are hard of hearing to alert cops of a crime taking place near them without having to pick up the phone. Currently, it takes a deaf person seven times as long to call the emergency service as people with perfect hearing, Nesta claimed.

Tris Dyson, director for the centre for challenge prizes at Nesta, said: “Open data is a valuable tool that at the moment is not used to its full potential. It presents a great opportunity to have real impact and through our Open Data Challenge Series we hope to identify some truly innovative projects that could deliver real change. Today’s finalists show the potential that’s out there.”

The government has ploughed £10m into a big data think-tank called the Open Data Institute, which has also been helped out with cash from the Omidyar Network, a funding network run by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. It aims to use big data to solve big problems.

Stuart Coleman, commercial director of the Open Data Institute said: “It’s great to see such a range of people and ideas that use open data. The challenge approach means that we are seeing ideas that are unique, innovative and most importantly, bringing positive benefits to peoples’ daily lives. These aren’t pie in the sky concepts but practical uses of open data which could deliver huge social and economic value." ®

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