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GCN : November 2012
20 GCN NOVEMBER 2012 • GCN.COM It's powerful enough to read minds. And it can sort through terabytes of unstructured data to pull out obscure links and in- ferences. It's one of the hottest new software tools that almost nobody in government wants to talk about -- text analytics. The Department of Home- land Security has reportedly been using it to scan social me- dia for signs of terrorists. NASA has been using it to cull log re- ports made by pilots and me- chanics to make airlines safer. We can only guess why the IRS and the Federal Reserve have recently put out requests for proposals for text analytics tools (both organizations declined to be interviewed). And increasingly, agencies and departments are scanning social media to check on how they're doing with the public and to get ideas for improving service. "They need to find hidden re- lationships between the words and sentences that people are using to spot emerging trends and to identify public concerns so they can provide intelligence to all of the departments in the government that they serve," said Fiona McNeill, text analyt- ics product marketing manager for SAS, a firm whose roots in analytics go back over 40 years. "It's decoding the message of the public and understanding the voice of the people," she said. Unfortunately, most govern- ment agencies -- with the excep- tion of those involved in public New tools for parsing text-based data could lead to breakthroughs in public safety, biosurveillance and smarter agency services TEXT ANALYTICS: NEW TOOLS FOR TRACKING PUBLIC DATA TRAILS BY PATRICK MARSHALL NASA is using text analytics on thousands of flight reports by pilots and mechanics to help find data patterns that could make aviation safer.