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GCN : November 2013
GCN NOVEMBER 2013 • GCN.COM 11 Scientists are getting better all the time at collecting data, pulling vast amounts of it from expanding networks of sen- sors, satellite feeds, supercomputers and other devices. The trick is por- ing over that data and nding useful information, and even with the big data analysis tools at hand, that's not an easy task. But researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab may have just made the job easier. The lab has developed new tech- niques for analyzing huge data sets, by using an approach called "distributed merge trees" that takes better advan- tage of supercomputing's massively parallel architectures, according to a re- port from the National Energy Research Scienti c Computing Center. With supercomputing being applied to everything from genomics to climate research, data sets are getting more complex as well as increasingly large, often running into the petabyte range. Their complexity often puts them beyond the range of standard methods of creating a topology, which has led scientists to apply massively parallel supercomputing techniques. But even supercomputers can run up against their limits. "The growth of serial computational power has stalled, so data analysis is becoming increasingly dependent on massively parallel machines," Gunther Weber, a computational researcher in Berkeley Lab's Visualization Group, said in the report. And that's where the distributed merge tree algorithms come in. They're capable of scanning a huge data set, tagging the values a researcher is look- ing for and creating a topological map of the data, the way a pocket map of the London subway cleanly depicts what is a vast labyrinth of tracks, tun- nels and stations. Distributed merge trees essentially divide and conquer the large topological data sets. They separate the data sets into blocks and leverage a supercom- puter's massively parallel architecture to distribute the work across its thousands of nodes, Weber said. In the process, it separates important data from the "noise," or irrelevant data, inherent in any large data set, the researchers said. An example would be a topological map of the fuel consumption values within a ame, said Dimiti Morozov, who co-authored a paper on distributed merge trees with Weber. The algorithm would "allow scientists to quickly pick out the burning and non-burning regions from an ocean of 'noisy' data," he said. Ultimately, distributed merge trees will let scientists get more out of future supercomputers. "This is also an important step in making topological analysis available on massively paral- lel, distributed memory architectures," Weber said. • Energy lab finds a better way to search large data sets BY KEVIN McCANEY Law enforcement agencies have been turning to analytics and other software to aggregate information on gang activity and homicide cases, nd potential links between incidents and improve their in- vestigations. And they're seeing results. Since launching a new intelligence- sharing case le system, the Atlanta Po- lice Department increased indictments by 97 percent from 2011 to 2012 and achieved guilty pleas on Georgia gang statute violations in 22 of 31 cases. The Atlanta Police Intelligence Net- work (APIN), developed in partnership with Formulytics, an Atlanta-based software development company, may soon include agencies from neighbor- ing Clayton and DeKalb counties for metro-wide law enforcement collabora- tion. A pilot is being developed by the department and Formulytics for these counties. "This technology has enabled much smarter, much faster investigations, and the results speak for themselves," Mayor Kasim Reed said in a release, in which he described the new system as "a giant leap forward in the ght against gang violence." The Web-based APIN organizes investigations, including homicides and criminal gang activities, to enable the police to see the larger picture -- the organizational gang structure -- rather than just viewing gang-related crimes as individual incidents. Criminal activity is tracked over time, and the system includes information on gang history, identi ers (graf ti, tattoos, hand signs, etc.) and gang members. With APIN, investigators in the police department's Gang and Homicide unit are automatically alerted to links be- tween criminal investigations. More than 1,000 links were identi ed by the system this year, the department said. In the past, investigators manually searched paper les and discussed cases with other investigators nd such links. "Criminals don't restrict their activi- ties to geographical boundaries," said Atlanta Police Chief George Turner. "So, it's critical that police share intelligence across city and county lines." • Anti-gang software gets results for police BY KATHLEEN HICKEY