Fighting the Flu: We Need a New Kind of Intelligence

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Chances are this winter you've already had the aches, fever and exhaustion that typically accompany the flu, or at least you know people who have. As this becomes one of the worst flu seasons on record, public-health agencies around the world are working to monitor and track the spread of the virus. But it's a difficult process.

Artificial intelligence will soon help us undertake this task better, faster and cheaper. Canadian researchers are developing AI systems that monitor social media, calls to health lines, emergency-room visits and other real-time data sources, so that computer algorithms can identify flu outbreaks much earlier. The goal is to help public-health agencies accurately identify the start and spread of infectious diseases so that we can all react more effectively. For example, real-time analysis of huge quantities of data – enabled by AI – could allow authorities to create systems of mobile notifications, arm clinicians with relevant information, and rapidly evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts.

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The Globe and Mail