Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Starve a fever, feed a cold – and Google the flu

This time, the virus that Google Inc. is fighting isn't on a compute0r.

With flu season on the way, the search-engine kingpin unveiled a new tool Tuesday dubbed Google Flu Trends, through the company's philanthropic wing, Google.org. The new Web tool takes data from search queries and crunches the information to paint a real-time picture of the level of influenza infection in a given area of the United States.

Google is banking that Internet users will use the company's search engine as a first source of information when they begin feeling sick by querying such terms as “flu symptoms.”

By marrying the data from those search terms with its users' locations – Google logs the geographic location of its users for each query on its search engine – the Mountain View, Calif., Internet titan believes it can predict a flu outbreak up to two weeks before traditional tracking systems.

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