Data Into Dollars: WeMakeItSafer With Data
This week, grocery stores across the country recalled several kinds of fruit due to contamination concerns. If you heard about the recall, it was probably thanks to social media or television news — both of which work great in these situations when you have widespread (or some other sensationalistic) concern.
But how do you know if some other product you own (say an eyelash curler or your home’s thermostat) has been recalled? Unless you were really diligent about completing warrantee cards (is there even an eyelash curler warrantee card?) you might never find out there was an issue.
This is the problem WeMakeItSafer.com set out to solve. By leveraging open data provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), WeMakeItSafer provides information about product recalls in a clean, reliable format that everyone can understand.
Much of this open data is not summarized elsewhere, nor with the breadth with which WeMakeItSafer has done so. (For instance, CPSC recall data is available through the site from as far back as 1999.) The company has developed a number of charts and graphs of the aggregated data sets. Most of these are available for free from their website, however, for data on more recent years, there is a subscription service.
For consumers, the company’s web-born app uses sophisticated algorithms and statical probability analysis (all hidden behind a simper user interface) to help people easily find any recalled products they may own. You can sign up for their “Items I Own” service, which will check all your products against CPSC recall data. If an item you own is recalled, the service will let you know how to fix the problem or get a replacement.
WeMakeItSafer also helps manufacturers and the media communicate recalls more effectively. They offer several tools which allow other websites to install ready-made product recall finders, integrate recall news on their Facebook pages, or develop their own apps using the WeMakeItSafer API.
As WeMakeItSafer CEO Jennifer Toney says on the company’s website, “In the information age, it is ridiculous that people continue to be hurt by products that both the government and the manufacturers know are dangerous. It is a problem that simply should not exist.”