Google introduced a really clever website over the last few days. Although they’re always getting flak for all the personal info they gather from you, there really are some pretty interesting things they can do with all that information. Like make the Centre for Disease Control obsolete.
OK, maybe that’s a bit too hyperbolic, but their new program has managed to closely approximate the CDC’s tracking of flu bugs, simply through aggregating all the web searches people do on the topic. Apparently the number of people who google “Neo Citran” or other similar terms gives you a great idea of how many are suffering from the flu. Since the program is gathering data in real time, it’s thought to be two weeks ahead of the CDC in determining flu hot spots.
This is a new wave of knowledge management that eliminates the biggest weakness of most old models – the fact that they are dependent on people to contribute actively. Google is once again leading the way in turning the everyday things people are doing anyways into new bodies of useful information.