VAST Visual Analytics Challenge 2014: Visualization and Crime-Solving

VAST Challenge 2014 involves three mini-challenges that focus on text, location, and streaming data analysis, and an overall Grand Challenge to test your skills. Submit entries before July 8.

VAST 2014 ChallengeBy Georges Grinstein, UMass Lowell, Apr 4, 2014

Announcing the VAST Challenge 2014!

See  for details.

This year’s VAST Challenge presents three inter-related mini-challenges and an overall Grand Challenge to test your skills. These challenges feature a mix of data types, including text, transaction, network, and geospatial / temporal. This year’s challenge also features a first for the VAST Challenge - a streaming text dataset for you to analyze.

These challenges are open to participation by individuals and teams in industry, government, and academia. We encourage your submissions, and look forward to seeing your innovative approaches to solving these challenges using visual analytics.

Background: The Kronos Incident

In the roughly twenty years that Tethys-based GAStech has been operating a natural gas production site in the island country of Kronos, it has produced remarkable profits and developed strong relationships with the government of Kronos. However, GAStech has not been as successful in demonstrating environmental stewardship.

In January, 2014, the leaders of GAStech are celebrating their new-found fortune as a result of the initial public offering of their very successful company. In the midst of this celebration, several employees of GAStech go missing.  An organization known as the Protectors of Kronos (POK) is suspected in the disappearance, but things may not be what they seem.

As an expert in visual analytics, you are called in to help law enforcement from Kronos and Tethys assess the situation and figure out where the missing employees are and how to get them home again.  Time is of the essence.

The Challenges

VAST 2014 Mini Challenge 1: Disappearance Data Available Now! Mini-Challenge 1 focuses on the disappearance itself. As an analyst, you have a set of current and historical news reports at your disposal, as well as resumes of numerous GAStech employees and email headers from two weeks of internal GAStech company email. You are being counted on to bring law enforcement up to date on the current organization of the POK and how that organization has changed over time, as well as to characterize the events surrounding the disappearance.

Description Available! Mini-Challenge 2 asks you to analyze movement and tracking data. GAStech provides many of their employees with company cars for their personal and professional use, but unbeknownst to the employees, the cars are equipped with GPS tracking devices. You are given tracking data for the two weeks leading up to the disappearance, as well as credit card transaction and loyalty card usage data. From this data, can you identify suspicious behaviors? Can you identify people and locations that law enforcement should investigate? Data for this mini-challenge will be made available in April.

Description Available! Mini-Challenge 3 poses a streaming analysis challenge. You will have access to real-time feeds of microblogs and emergency calls. Can you monitor this stream to identify where the missing GAStech employees are, where they may located in the near future, and what steps are needed to bring them home? Data for this mini-challenge will be made available in April.

Available Now! In the Grand Challenge, you are asked to put all the pieces together. Who disappeared? Who was responsible for the disappearance? And what were the underlying motivations for the disappearance?

For more information, please see  or contact

The submission deadline is July 8, 2014.

We look forward to seeing your creative solutions!

Kris Cook, Georges Grinstein, and Mark Whiting

VAST Challenge Committee co-chairs