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What Iarpa Knows About Your Canceled Dinner Reservation

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In aggregate, canceled dinner reservations are pretty good predictors of disease outbreaks.

Researchers at the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity are running several research projects aimed at determining ways in which crowdsourced data could be used to predict specific events.

Credit: Andrey Bayda/

The U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) is running several simultaneous research projects examining how crowdsourced data could be used to predict specific events, such as disease outbreaks or riots.

Some of the research indicates unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated data and the probability of an event occurring. For example, researchers found that canceled dinner reservations, in the aggregate, are good predictors of disease outbreaks.

A research team from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University working on the Open Source Indicators program developed a system that incorporated tens of thousands of data streams to create a forecast for whether a particular event was likely to occur, says IARPA director Jason Matheny. By the end of a forecasting round analyzing data from Latin America, China, and parts of Africa, the researchers generated a forecast a week in advance with about 70-percent to 85-percent accuracy.

Meanwhile, IARPA's Cyber Attack Automated Unconventional Sensor Environment project is designed to predict when cyberattacks are being planned, pulling data from hacker forums, Web search queries, and changes in the prices of malware on the black market.

The researchers note forecasting economic instability has been one of the toughest challenges.

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Abstracts Copyright © 2016 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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