VAST Challenge 2014

Two teams from IDC submitted entries to the 2014 VAST Challenge. In response to Mini-Challenge 2, a team led by Simon Attfield collaborated with a team at MASS Consultants Ltd. led by Dr. Adrian Wagstaff and James Bulloch to create a suite of visualisation tools which they used to analyse GPS and financial transaction data of employees working for a fictional company. The task was to characterise regular and unusual behaviours. The work culminated in an ‘Analyst’s Day’ in which IDC staff worked on the problem with a group of ex-military intelligence analysts at MASS’s training facility. Another team led by Kai Xu, together with Bob Fields and Phong Nguyen, addressed the mini-challenge 3, whose goal is to provide real-time situation awareness using Twitter-like data for a fictitious kidnaping case. A visual analytics tool, SAVI (Social Analytics Visualisation), was developed to provide text analysis and geo-temporal visualisation. Findings from SAVI were further analysed in SenseMap, a sense making tool developed by the same team, for hypothesis and narrative generation. Both teams were awarded ‘honourable mention’ by the VAST Challenge Committee. They will present their solutions at the IEEE VIS2014 conference in Paris in November.


In July Ashley Wheat and Pragya Paudyal were invited to attend CANVAS 2014 at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The Canadian Visual Analytics Summer School aims to “bring together students, researchers, faculty and industry to advance he science and technology of Visual Analytics in Canada”. Over three days Ashley and Pragya attended keynotes and presentations from established names in Visual Analytics, as well as attending demonstrations and workshops of leading VA solutions

€13 million VALCRI project gets underway


Taken from the main MDX news page:

Law enforcement agencies in Europe could soon have a new tool to help them analyse and investigate criminal activity, thanks to a pioneering €13 million project led by Middlesex University.

The European Commission-funded project sees Middlesex lead a consortium of 18 international organisations in the development of a visual analytics-based criminal intelligence analysis system intended to process vast quantities of data and to identify suspicious patterns of behaviour.

Named VALCRI (Visual Analytics for sense-making in Criminal Intelligence Analysis), the system will be designed to provide early warnings of impending criminal activity and support the increasingly complex work of the police and intelligence agencies in the age of the internet and global terrorism.

Using powerful analytics software and data laid out in an interactive and graphical manner, VALCRI will be used by police analysts to investigate crimes and crime-related behaviour, complementing and enhancing current police capabilities.

Criminal intelligence analysis is incredibly mentally demanding and can be very time intensive given the uncertainty and ambiguity involved, explained Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at Middlesex University and VALCRI project lead, William Wong.

“Sorting the significant from the insignificant and connecting the dots is difficult with large volumes of data, and it’s getting more complex as sources such as social media increase,” said Professor Wong.

“It’s no longer humanly possible to sift through all the data if the police are expected to respond in an efficient timeframe.”

VALCRI could provide a solution to this, with the 18 international organisations involved in the project including law enforcement agencies, universities, businesses and research organisations.

Those involved include the Belgian Federal Police and West Midlands Police Force, while 72 scientists, engineers and law enforcement professionals from eight different countries will also be working on the project.

“The consortium aims to design the technology from cognitive, legal, ethical and privacy perspectives so that the rights of the individual to security and liberty will be respected while ensuring the good of society,” Professor Wong added.

“VALCRI will also enable law enforcement agencies to make their processes more transparent, so that the process by which their conclusions are reached are made easier to inspect.”

The project aims to use data to paint a comprehensive picture for crime fighters and help prevent the miscarriages of justice which could potentially occur when dealing with big data.

Mistakes can arise for a number of reasons in these instances. Data overload can pose significant problems, while a lack of awareness of the availability of relevant data can also be problematic.

More information can be found at the project’s website:

IDC kicks-off VALCRI


The kick-off meeting for project VALCRI, or “Visual Analytics for Sense-making in Criminal Intelligence Analysis” was hosted by the IDC. The project brings together 72 experts from 18 partners across 8 countries to research and develop a system that facilitates human reasoning and analytic discourse, tightly coupled with semi-automated human-mediated semantic knowledge extraction.

U.S. Treasury

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Dr Rick Walker and Professor William Wong, visited the U.S. Treasury Office of Financial Research to carry out work on the (Financial Systemic) Risk Mapper tool conceptualised by Wong during his 2013 Fellowship at the University of British Columbia hosted by Dr Vicki Lemieux, Director MAGIC. Walker and Wong also gave a presentation to the OFR during this visit.