Thursday, 20 November 2008

Google predicts the ‘flu

The enterprise seminars threw up several unusual and counterintuitive uses for technology, as well as 11890’s fascinating decision not to use technology — instead of automating the directory service, they use people to help you find your number (more about that later).

Then I got back to the office to a Nature press release, that reminded me of another new and unusual use for a technology: using Google search queries to monitor ‘flu infections.

Google Flu Trends’ application, launched last week (and funded by Google’s philanthropic arm), tracks people’s searches of topics such as flu symptoms, to provide real-time surveillance of infections. Significantly, it can provide up-to-date information within a day — compared with one or even two weeks for current surveillance systems — useful for early warnings, and presumably could be expanded to other contagious diseases. Currently monitoring peoples health only in the US of A.

An interesting way of exploiting the fact that so many people now turn to the Web for health information.

Nature has put the relevant scientific article on public access, and you can read it here.

Meanwhile, even the latest rocket science couldn’t help a NASA astronaut with a greasey glove . . . and she lost her tool bag in space. Image, above, courtesy of NASA TV.

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