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Appirio's Crowdsourcing Community Creates Breakthrough Solutions to Support the Advancement of Space Science and Protect Planet Earth

Protecting Earth From Asteroids and Finding Anomalies in Saturn's Rings Are Just a Few Ways [topcoder] Is Helping NASA Push the Boundaries of Innovation for All Humankind

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- (Marketwired) -- 08/07/14 -- Appirio today announced that, in partnership with the Harvard NASA Tournament Lab (NTL), the company and its [topcoder]™ community are helping NASA and other government agencies solve some of their most complex real-world challenges. Over the last three years, the [topcoder] community of 630,000 data scientists, developers and designers have helped NASA and a number of other U.S. government agencies tackle issues ranging from tracking asteroids, to improving deep space networking, to predicting a chemical's systemic lowest effect level, just to name a few. To date, the crowdsourcing efforts have received thousands of different submissions from more than 20 countries with over $1.5 million awarded to [topcoder] community members.

The NTL was established in 2011 in a joint effort with NASA and the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University to put the power of the fast-growing [topcoder] crowdsourcing development community to work solving complex challenges around human exploration, science and space technology. Following the successful crowdsourcing initiatives with NASA and the NTL, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) requested that NASA establish the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI). The purpose of the CoECI is to educate, share best practices and measure the impact of crowdsourcing and open innovation across other government agencies as well as within NASA.

Current challenges that NASA is working on with the [topcoder] community of more than 630,000 developers, designers and data scientists include:

  • Asteroid Data Hunter: The Asteroid Data Hunter challenge, part of the Asteroid Grand Challenge series, is running on [topcoder] and is being conducted in partnership with Planetary Resources Inc. (PRI). In the latest challenge, the community was tasked with developing an algorithm that can validate asteroid detections and reduce false identifications in images from ground-based telescopes by learning from years of human input. Phase two of the challenge is launching on August 11 and will aim to increase the detection sensitivity. The successful solution will need to minimize the number of false asteroid detections by leveraging the Phase one algorithms and ignore imperfections in the data. For more information or to sign up to compete in the Asteroid Data Hunter and Asteroid Tracker (which is now live) marathon matches visit

  • Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) Challenge Series: Sending email to and from the International Space Station (ISS) over a distance of 44,000 miles can be a complicated and unreliable process. Over the past year, the [topcoder] community has contributed to both the design and implementation of NASA's open source Disruption Tolerant Networking Protocol. In this latest effort, the [topcoder] community is adapting an existing enterprise email system to use DTN. The solution will convert email and calendar traffic to bundles instead of packets for sharing data between Earth and the ISS reliably, safely and securely.

  • ISS FIT (Food Intake Tracker): Living in a microgravity environment onboard the International Space Station makes humans susceptible to nutrient deficiencies and bone loss which can lead to osteoporosis. To help NASA scientists and doctors monitor and solve this problem, [topcoder] designed and developed an iPad-based application that provides astronauts on the ISS with an efficient, rapid, and accurate method for tracking their dietary intake. Recently, the iPad app was demonstrated at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco by former astronaut Leland Melvin.

  • Planetary Data Systems Challenge: The Cassini spacecraft is orbiting Saturn in an extended mission to study the planet. Using actual images from the spacecraft, the goal is to create an algorithm that will help scientists better understand ring phenomena, ring structure, and potentially find new moons. This is a set of challenges to help find anomalies and features of interest in the rings of Saturn that are not otherwise detectable by a computer due to false-positives. Results of this challenge will be available in Fall 2014.

"As NASA continues to push the boundaries of human imagination and innovation, we have seen the value in utilizing a citizen-based professional crowd to complement our internal efforts and solve complex real-world challenges," said Jason Crusan, NASA Tournament Lab director. "Tapping into a diverse pool of the world's top technical talent has not only resulted in new and innovative ways to advance technologies to further space exploration, but has also led to a whole new way of thinking for NASA, and other government agencies, providing us with an additional set of on-demand tools to tackle complex projects."

Additional government agencies working with [topcoder] through the CoECI structure include the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid (CMS), USAID, the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

For example, the EPA pursued the ToxCast Prediction Challenge to address the lack of information on the thousands of chemicals that humans are exposed to every day. The diverse [topcoder] community was challenged to predict the lowest dose at which a chemical causes adverse effects in traditional chemical toxicity tests. The algorithm contest consisted of two phases with a total of 338 registrants, 49 competitors, and 804 submissions. The winning submission to the three-week contest provided an approach towards addressing the toxicity problem that heavily leveraged data science techniques and has potential for further advancement. Interestingly, but common to [topcoder] results, most of the highest-ranked solutions were provided by competitors without specific expertise in a chemistry-related field. These solutions matched or exceeded solutions provided by subject domain experts. As a result, the EPA will be showcasing the top two winners' findings at the 2nd Annual Data Summit on September 29 & 30 at the EPA Research Triangle Park Campus in North Carolina. Register for the Data Summit now to be a part of the dialogue about ways to use this new data to transform chemical safety evaluations.

"The [topcoder] community has really taken a leading role in the field of Data Science when it comes to providing the best expertise across the world in algorithmic and statistical work, as well as digitization, and computer science," said Dr. Karim R. Lakhani, Principal Investigator of Harvard-NTL and Lumry Family Associate Professor of Business Administration. "These data scientists have been able take the complex, data intensive problems facing NASA and other federal agencies, analyze it, and then turn that analysis into creating actual solutions to advance some of their most important initiatives."

"The results [topcoder] has achieved impacting science and technology with NASA, the NTL and OSTP have inspired other parts of government to examine how they can use communities to redefine how research and development is done," said Narinder Singh, president of [topcoder] and co-founder of Appirio. "Just as many of our enterprise customers are utilizing the global talent pool of the [topcoder] community to execute disruptive strategies, the federal government is tapping into that same talent pool to solve some of its most pressing and complex problems. In some cases, the solutions that are created might literally change the world."

Additional resources:

About Appirio
Appirio is a global cloud consultancy that helps customers achieve results in weeks, not years by harnessing the power of the world's top talent. Appirio's 630,000 member [topcoder] community and crowdsourcing platform, combined with the company's business and technical expertise, have helped 800+ enterprises confidently use technology to increase innovation and transform business. Founded in 2006, Appirio is a trusted partner to companies such as Apria, Coca-Cola, eBay, Facebook, Japan Post Network, L'Oreal, NetApp, The Four Seasons and Virgin America.

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