Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Google Gets the Flu

Google is using its search trend results to help the CDC fight the flu:
We have found a close relationship between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. Of course, not every person who searches for "flu" is actually sick, but a pattern emerges when all the flu-related search queries from each state and region are added together. We compared our query counts with data from a surveillance system managed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and discovered that some search queries tend to be popular exactly when flu season is happening. By counting how often we see these search queries, we can estimate how much flu is circulating in various regions of the United States.
Bottom line? The CDC has more and better data, but it's delayed data - Google is up to date. Want to see where flu is on the rise right now? Go to Google Flu Trends and take a look at the individual state data. Here's today's take on Colorado:

I think we will see more and more of this - Google (and others) being able to tease meaningful and helpful information out of the humongous data streams. They'll be able to pick up on trends, make hypothesis, and then follow up on the data to test those hypothesis and come to conclusions that humans would either never come up with, or would come up with much later. (Again, this reminds me a little of the data mining inferred in 2020 Vision.)


  1. Wow, that is really interesting, and makes a lot of sense. Sounds like the start of some medical research! Thanks for sharing.

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