Tag Archives: Technology

Fusion Project Unlocks Predictive Power of Public Data

AscentiveHave you ever wondered why Montana is the happiest state? Or why Mitt Romney is the front runner? These questions and others like them heavily influence our economy, our politics, and even everyday life, but the data that holds the answers is scattered far and wide. This is now changing thanks to the Fusion Project which is combing the vast data stores of government and research institutions alike to create one massively powerful data set.

The Fusion Project is making the promises of big data a reality and is possible only because of the explosion of available data. Back in 2010 Eric Schmidt, then CEO of Google, said that “every two days we now create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003”. Data has even skyrocketed since then with the proliferation of smart phones, tablet computers, and other products producing new forms of data, but no one has yet taken full advantage of this overwhelming data source.

“I was surprised by the sheer volume of data available from governments and public institutions,” said Jason Kolb, a senior data scientist at Applied Data Labs. “But there is very little value being extracted from it due to its fragmented nature and our inability to analyze it all as a whole.” When the data is properly fused to private data, Kolb said, companies can reveal exciting new insights and identify ideas and opportunities that were previously hidden. For example, they can extend customer data with demographic and income information from the US Census project, or quality of life data from Pew Research. This unlocks much richer sets of information for use in customer service, marketing, and many other initiatives.

To address this need, Applied Data Labs is launching The Fusion Project–a public project using techniques and technology developed internally at Applied Data Labs to combine multiple public data sets into a single, value-packed data set for public consumption. Using distributed data analysis technology which employs advanced statistical analysis and data integration technology, the Fusion Project is able to join together previously silo’d data sets, unlocking insights and ideas that were previously unavailable. The project’s ultimate goal is to unlock the synergy latent in the publicly available data sets and put them to work in analytics environments.

“The Fusion Project uses several new and emerging technologies to work its magic,” said Kolb. “It’s one of the first projects to use Semantic Web technology in a meaningful way, and we’ve developed several unique ways to combine statistical research and analysis to stitch data sets together.” Applied Data Labs researches and develops experimental and theoretical analytic technologies internally and then consumerizes them in various ways, the Fusion Project being one of the first publicly-available incarnations of this process.

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New Electronic Waste Recycler Opens in West Philadelphia

AscentiveTech News from the Ascentive team

On Monday, Covanta Energy Corporation, a world leader in the development and operation of Energy-from-Waste (also known as EfW) facilities and other renewable energy projects, announced the launch of a new business to responsibly recycle and dispose of electronic waste (also known as e-waste). ECOvanta, located on 58th Street in West Philadelphia, is a state-of-the-art recycling facility that properly recycles electronic waste such as computers, monitors, mobile phones, printers and televisions. The facility safely manages end-of-life electronics using a combination of manual disassembly and an automated shredding system to separate materials into commodities for recycling.

Numerous studies show that E-waste is the fastest growing segment of the municipal waste stream in the U.S. with over three million tons of electronics generated each year of which only 14% is recovered for recycling. The rest typically ends up in landfills. Electronics should not be disposed of in the trash because most contain heavy metals such as lead (avg. monitor contains 4-7 lbs. of lead), mercury and cadmium.

“It’s important to properly recycle electronic waste to ensure we protect our environment from potential harm. I’m happy to see that new businesses like ECOvanta are coming to Philadelphia. They are not only providing a solution to this issue, but they are also creating new investment in our community,” said Carlton Williams, deputy commissioner of sanitation, City of Philadelphia, Streets Department.

ECOvanta has successfully passed audits and has been recommended to receive the R2 and ISO 14001:2004 certifications.  These rigorous third-party certifications ensure that e-waste is being recycled responsibly and sustainably. Everything that comes through the ECOvanta facility is sold or recycled as a processed commodity according to R2 standards. ECOvanta also audits all downstream vendors to ensure that they too are recycling correctly.

“We are excited to be launching this new venture into e-waste recycling. It is a growing market and we see a great opportunity to a provide proper, responsible way to recycle and dispose of these materials as more and more people become aware of its importance. In addition, we are proud to be providing new green jobs in the City of Philadelphia,” said Seth Myones, Covanta Americas president.

ECOvanta also offers secure destruction services for customers who require assured and certified destruction of their electronic equipment. Customers can follow the secure chain of custody process to track and identify material as it moves through the system. The process eliminates risks to information integrity by completely sanitizing hard drives or other storage media using a leading software program that meets all regulated destruction standards prior to manual disassembly and shredding.

The facility serves customers throughout the Mid-Atlantic, New York/New Jersey and New England regions.

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What are Cookies?

Internet privacy info from the Ascentive team

If you surf the Internet, you’ve come across cookies in one form or another. A cookie is a type of message that is communicated to a web browser by a web server.  The two main purposes of a cookie are to identify users and possibly prepare customized Web pages, or to save site login information. Due to their core role of enhancing/enabling usability or site processes, disabling cookies may prevent users from using certain websites.

Cookies are created when a user’s web browser loads a particular website. The website sends information to the browser which then creates a text file. Every time the user goes back to the same website, the browser retrieves and sends this file to the website’s server. Computer Cookies are created not just by the website the user is browsing but also by other websites that run ads, widgets, or other elements on the page being loaded. These types of cookies regulate how the ads appear or how the widgets and other elements function on the page.

Session Cookies are a type of cookie used by a server to store information about user page activities so users can easily pick up where they left off on the server’s pages. By default, web pages really don’t have any ‘memory’. Cookies tell the server what pages to show the user so the user doesn’t have to remember or start navigating the site all over again. Cookies act as a sort of “bookmark” within the site. Similarly, cookies can store ordering information needed to make shopping carts work instead of forcing the user to remember all the items the user put in the shopping cart.

Persistent Cookies are employed to store user preferences. Many websites allow the user to customize how information is presented through site layouts or themes. These changes make the site easier to navigate and/or lets user leave a part of the user’s “personality” at the site.

Cookie security and privacy issues

It’s important to note that cookies are not viruses. Cookies use a plain text format, and they are not compiled pieces of code so they cannot be executed nor are they self-executing. They also cannot make copies of themselves and spread to other networks to execute and replicate. However, Cookies can be used for malicious purposes. Since they store information about a user’s browsing preferences and history, both on a specific site and browsing among several sites, cookies can be used to act as a form of spyware.

Responsible web developers deal with privacy issues caused by cookie tracking by clearly describing how cookies are used on their sites. These privacy policies should explain what kind of information is collected and how the information is used.


Build Trust and be a Successful Freelancer

Business tips from the Ascentive team

When it comes to being a successful freelancer, the most important thing you need to do is to inspire trust in your current and potential employers. Every interaction your have with employers can increase – or decrease – their trust in you. If you’re not careful, something as seemingly minor as taking too long to respond to an email can make you appear less dependable to an employer.

Being a freelancer who is responsive, pleasant, engaged, and meets expectations, is the key to acquiring more (and better paying) work. So how does one go about becoming a trustworthy freelancer? Start by following these principles:

 

Make Great First Impressions

Your first communications with potential employers are crucial in creating a high level of trust. Make every effort to appear intelligent, eager and on time. Always reread your email drafts aloud and use a spell-checker before you send them off. If you’re not communicating in your native language, make the extra effort to have a friend proofread your communications.

Don’t Lie about your Skillset

Always be honest about your skillset.  If you disappoint your employer when called upon to use your stated skills, you’ll never get a chance to demonstrate your real value. This is especially important when it comes to language skills.

Know the Big Picture

Always learn an employer’s business and their specific goals.  Employers trust freelancers who care about the big picture and understand their priorities.

Make your Deadlines

Without a doubt, there’s nothing’s more important than meeting your deadlines. In addition to hitting your dates, always be available for communication on the agreed days and times, and deliver the quality that you promised.

Document your Processes

Always document your process and record why you completed a task a certain way. This explains to your employer why you determined that process A was better than B and reinforces their trust in you.

Save your Employer Money

Anything you do that brings your contract work in under budget will help establish your integrity and your respect for the employer’s resources. That isn’t to say you should lower your own cost so much you can’t actually make a living; but if you have to make a choice that has a financial impact on your employer, try to choose the option that’s the least expensive.

Admit your mistakes and fix them

In the event that you’ve turned in your work and the employer isn’t happy, submit a second pass. Better yet, build a second pass into your delivery schedule on all major projects.

Follow up

Always check in with a quick email after you’ve delivered your work. This shows that you’re concerned with client satisfaction and will encourage them to hire you in the future.


How Cyberbullies Attack

Computer safety tips from the Ascentive team

As technology evolves exponentially, it’s crucial that parents, educators, and local law authorities keep abreast of the potential threats that children may encounter online. Unfortunately, Cyberbulling is a rapidly growing problem. A cyberbully uses the Internet, cell phone, or other device to send or post text or images to try to hurt or embarrass other people. Here are the types of abuse to watch out for:

Trolling
A popular form of Cyberbullying, trolling is the act of sending or posting electronic messages that are deliberately hostile, insulting, mean, angry, vulgar or insulting, to one person or several, either privately or publicly to an online group.

Gossiping
Inspired by popular Internet gossip sites, gossiping occurs when a person sends or publishes cruel rumors, or false statements about a person to intentionally damage the victim’s reputation or friendships.

Message Board Posts
Message Boards are online bulletin boards where people post anything they choose. Although there are many good bulletin boards on the net, there are many hostile message boards like 4chan that children should avoid, as the postings on these types of message boards are abusive.

Harassment
Harassment is when the electronic bully repeatedly sends insulting, hurtful, rude, or insulting communications via email or text messages.

Impersonation
Impersonation the act of breaking into someone’s account by stealing a password and changing it, or by maliciously using information provided by a friend.

Happy slapping
Happy slapping occurs when an unsuspecting victim is physically attacked as an accomplice films or take pictures of the incident. The image or video is then posted online at a video site like YouTube or distributed electronically.

Text Wars
Similar to harassment, a Text War occurs when several people gang up on the victim, sending the target hundreds of emails or text messages, resulting in high cellphone bills.

Hate polls
A hate poll asks readers to vote on specific hateful questions, such as “Ugliest freshman” or “Biggest slut on campus?”

Spying
A more sophisticated form of Cyberbullying, this is the act of a computer hacker sending malicious computer code to the victim’s system in order to spy on the victim.

Images and videos
A result of the popularity of camera cell phones, photographs and videos of unsuspecting victims are now taken in bathrooms and locker rooms, then distributed online to humiliate the victims.

Outing
Outing occurs when a Cyberbully releases a victim’s confidential, private, or embarrassing information online, including private email messages or images meant for private viewing.

Trickery
Trickery is when a person purposely convinces another person into divulging secrets, private information or embarrassing information, and subsequently publishes that information online.

Exclusion
A relatively minor form of Cyberbullying, exclusion occurs when someone intentionally excludes another person from an online group or community.