Sample from Google's new Flu Trends site

I’ve always been a huge fan of Google Trends and Zeitgeist, and felt that there was TONS more that could be done with the data besides it’s current uses, which as far as I can tell are (1) entertaining bored people like me, and (2) making Google a bunch of money.

Well today Google announced one great (and, admittedly, obvious) thing to do with the data: track diseases

Google Flu Trends is a new service that uses organic Google searches to track and predict flu outbreaks in the US.  According to the article Google is able to predict flu spread much more quickly – and just as accurately – as the CDC’s existing system (in some cases beating the CDC by as much as two weeks).

Unfortunately, this type of organic information gathering via Google searches is not going to help the developing world anytime soon (where most don’t have the internet access necessary for this to worK), but this is an exciting first step towards using the population’s collective wisdom and information sharing towards mitigating the world’s health problems.

Looking forward to seeing where Google takes this!