Dr Google, I presume

14 Nov Dr Google, I presume

Bigmouthmedia News, UK, November 13, 2008
It looks like the Mountain View giant is not content with dealing with online viruses these days – now Google is set to predict the spread of flu out in the non-virtual world. According to The Guardian, the search engine has set its massive data-collecting power the task of collating information about the disease and has launched a site that claims to be able to raise the alarm over flu outbreaks up to two weeks before the existing public services. As the search engine continues to advance in so many disparate fields, you can’t help thinking someone out there is saying ‘anything you can do, Google can do better’. Using the technology developed for Google Trends, Google has created Google Flu Trends – a system that analyses various flu-related search terms across America. Google engineers claim that the resulting aggregated trends give them the potential ability to predict rises in flu cases and that they were a strong indicator of flu levels in America. Google compared its results to statistics filed by theUS centres for Disease Control over the last five years to ascertain the potential accuracy of its data. Science journal Nature will publish the results of Google’s comparisons with official health statistics. According to The Guardian, Jeremy Ginsberg, a Google engineer involved in developing the system said: “We wanted to step back and see if we couldn’t model a real-world phenomenon using search query data . . . We found we could highly accurately estimate what the flu activity levels would be in subsequent years.” The new move from Google adds to its previous investigations into digital detection technology designed to apply online information to public health mapping. It is already exploring ways of combining collated health information with other services, such as Google Maps, and looking into a tool that allows users to store personal health information on Google sites.