Sunday, April 26, 2009


The explosion in popularity for Twitter has allowed everyone to stay in tune with each other through the bountiful amounts of "tweets" but it is apparently being used for another type of tracking: people's illnesses.

SickCity specializes in "realtime disease detection for your city from messages on Twitter (and soon Facebook)." The site scans for messages about being sick ranging from a simple sore throat to the worst of the flu and allows users to track by city and illness.

Webware's Josh Lowensohn reported about this and also mentioned Google's attempt at tracking the spread of the common cold. Google's tracking depends on people's searches on along with historic data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. SickCity's data is provided in realtime and has the ability to drill down by city. Lowensohn commented that the combination of both Twitter's users and the results from Google could have some potential in the future.

This approach made me think of the potential it could have in tracking illnesses around the world in impoverished countries. Could international aid organizations use tools like this to collect data and track the spread of certain diseases? Granted, the technology is new and in the development stages but it may have the possibility to be utilized by the health and international aid sectors. It would have to be adapted from just people "tweeting" about a sore throat or a runny nose to a more defined system but given the flexibility and innovation of technology, it's not a far-fetched idea.

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