Google predicts the future of flu, just in time for the swine
It'll come as a surprise to precisely nobody that Google has a bunker in which boffins are working to... predict the future. It may not be a bunker - it may be a brightly lit, well ventilated office in San Francisco. But they are boffins.
Whenever people first hear of a news story, they'll tend to search for details online. In a similar vein, if we think we're suffering from an illness, a percentage of us will Google the symptoms. With a condition like flu, it's likely that hundreds of people can become infected, which causes particular Google search terms to trend.
By comparing these trends with data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Google have found they can spot seasonal variations in flu outbreaks up to two weeks before the CDC.
It's hoped in the future, Google's up-to-date flu estimates could help public health officials respond faster to seasonal epidemics. And even though the world is already aware of swine flu thanks to 24 hour news and Twitter-driven-hysteria, trend tools like this could help spot new outbreaks of the infection.