Jimmy Huang is a very busy man. In addition to the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies appointing him director of the School of Information Technology, he will be helping to host three prestigious international conferences in upcoming weeks. The conferences will focus on research into artificial intelligence, intelligent agent technology, active media technology, and information and knowledge management.
While current search-engine technology uses algorithms that rely on keywords to uncover pertinent information, the research of Huang and his colleagues uses algorithms with a capacity for natural-language processing and contextual understanding that can uncover more complex information. Rather than looking for instances of words, these elaborate algorithms can make sense of the words. The applications of the research are vast.
Right: Jimmy Huang
They can analyze, for instance, the text of blog postings and the feedback of its respondents and then make humanlike, intuitional assessments of the information. “The analysis could indicate changes in public mood on certain issues, or rising or diminishing support for a certain political leader,” says Huang.
His technology research seeks to improve the health-care system by reducing costs and improving services. Huang advocates the digitizing of all health-care records – texts, charts, X-rays and other image files – and making them securely accessible on the Internet.
How will this improve health care? “One of the reasons that health care is so expensive is due to the incentive for doctors and specialists to provide unnecessary or duplicate services, and to the inefficiencies of a system that creates multiple, proprietary medical records,” says Huang. He cites the example of a general practitioner drawing blood for a test, then referring a patient to a specialist who might perform the same procedure again due to the inaccessibility of the original GP’s files.
“If there were one comprehensive set of records for the patient, centrally and securely available on the Internet, practitioners wouldn’t have to resort to phone calls and courier services to exchange information,” says Huang. Improved access to information could reduce services and associated costs while maintaining the same level of care. “It would also allow for a more global perspective on a patient’s health as various practitioners wouldn’t be limited in the scope of information available to them and, with the assistance of algorithms, could uncover heretofore unseen conditions.”
Huang offers another example of the benefit of centralized resources by citing his own experience with a leg injury. His doctor referred him to a specialist near his home. However, the specialist couldn’t fit him into his schedule for two months. By then, the injury was repaired on its own, for better or worse. A centralized information system could analyze a patient’s surroundings in a more subtle way, not simply in terms of where the GP’s office is situated, but where the patient lives or works. An advanced algorithm could locate an available specialist in another area who might be available sooner.
The sphere of application is, likewise, immense: from opinion mining and sentiment analysis to context-aware computing and social networking or matchmaking.
The joint 2010 International Conferences on Active Media Technology and Brain Informatics will be on the Keele campus from Aug. 28 to 30, and the 2010 IEEE/WIC/ACM International Conferences on Web Intelligence and Intelligent Agent Technology will take place at York from Aug. 31 to Sept. 3. The 19th ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM 2010) will be held at the Fairmont Royal York from Oct. 26 to 30.
“Bringing these venerable, annual conferences to York for the first time represents quite a coup for the University. Among the list of sponsors are some of the major companies involved in the information technology industry and the competition for papers among prospective participants was extremely competitive,” says Huang. “I’m very grateful for the support of the Offices of the Vice-President Academic & Provost and the Vice-President Research & Innovation, and the Dean’s Office of the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.”
To watch a video of Huang talking about his work, click here.