As we fight off our colds and stock up on Berocca, we’re loving that Google wants to look after us to – they have announced that they can predict flu outbreaks up to two weeks before the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC), by analysing where people are searching about flu symptoms. Currently the CDC relies on doctors to report individual cases before it is able to identify outbreaks. Google’s technology could well prove invaluable in the fight against new viral diseases like bird flu, which can spread through the public far more quickly than the CDC can currently keep up with. Flu trends is just one example of the information that google can extract just by analysing search terms.
Some trendwatchers predicted the outcome of the US election simply by analysing search terms. Like Peter Norvig, Google’s research director, said last year – “All models are wrong, and increasingly you can succeed without them.”