Government Turns to Twitter to Predict the Future

By Rachel Ramsey January 15, 2013

The amount of data that comes through Twitter is hard to get a grip on, especially when there is an event that many of Twitter’s more than 500 million users tune in for. For example, the 2012 presidential election became the most tweeted political event in U.S. history with more than 31.7 million election-based tweets that maxed out at 327,452 tweets per minute at some points. As networks such as Twitter continue to grow larger and produce more complex data, it’s become time for researchers to monitor group behavior. In a program announcement, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is calling for computer algorithms to analyze the vast amount of unstructured text, blogs and tweets to help predict the future and make decisions faster.

“As networks grow larger and more complex, researchers have found it harder to monitor group behavior. ONR also wants researchers to discover networks that could be hidden within networks, and how information and money flows through a community,” explained Nextgov.

The program is part of the ONR’s Data to Decisions initiative to develop an open-source architecture system that enables rapid integration of existing and future data exploitation tools to achieve a new paradigm in the management and analysis of data. It wants researchers to discover networks that could be hidden within networks, and how information and money flows through a community.

Image via Nextgov

The program has three primary thrust areas: contextual understanding, event prediction and machine translation and processing. Events that the government could predict include terrorist attacks and election winners.

“Today's warfighter has access to text-based information from a wider range and greater number of sources than ever before. The influx of information can potentially improve warfighters' situation understanding and decision-making,” the program announcement reads. “However, it is clear that there has been, and will be no, increase in the number of warfighters to process and interpret the growing volume of available data. The practical implication of this is that the DoD has access to more data than it can process to achieve actionable information in support of diverse military information needs. It is imperative that we create, harvest and exploit technologies that will help realize the potential for improved decision-making without imposing a need for increased warfighter numbers or their workload.”

Proposals are due Jan. 15 and funding decisions will be made by Feb. 15.

The government isn’t the only one that is looking to benefit from predicting the future. Companies like Recorded Future analyze semantics and sentiments to foretell the future by sorting through thousands of news publications, blogs, tweets, comments, trade journals, government websites, financial databases and more.

Other events that companies and organizations would be interested in predicting include red carpet prognostications, picking the winner of the Super Bowl, box-office revenue for movies, choosing winning stocks and predicting what articles people will read.

Edited by Rich Steeves

TechZone360 Web Editor

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