The “Blue Dot” start-up from Canada predicted the spread and progression of the deadly virus before official health organizations.
In light of the accelerated spread of the deadly corona virus that has already hit four continents, the Beijing administration announced yesterday that it is sponsoring the event in the country of origin of the virus, Wuhan capital of Hubei. So far, the virus has infected 2,000 people and at least 56 have died, the vast majority of them in Central China’s Hubei Province.
In Canada, where a first case of infection was reported yesterday, the Toronto-based BlueDot startup will try to predict the course of the disease and its progression through artificial intelligence analyzing billions of data.
Weird magazine reported that BlueDot, founded in 2014, alerted its customers to the outbreak of the Chinese virus on December 31, even before the World Health Organization and its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were received. According to company reports, it is using Big Data to predict the spread of the world’s most dangerous diseases. Blu-Dot uses language processing and machine learning techniques to scan news reports from the world, flight data, and official reports of animal disease outbreaks. She does this with the help of reviewers in 65 languages and infectious disease experts who analyze the data. Accordingly, the company sends alerts to its customers in the public and private sectors.
In practice, BlueDot aims to intercept information and transmit it to the appropriate factors faster than the rate of disease spread. Thus, it accurately predicted where the virus would migrate outside of China – Bangkok, Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo – after first appearing in Wuhan.
“On the one hand, the world is changing rapidly, and diseases are emerging and spreading faster,” said company founder and CEO Kamran Khan in an interview with the Canadian media. “On the other hand, we have a growing access to the data that we can use to gain insights and disseminate faster than the disease spreads itself,” he noted. “Governments cannot necessarily be relied upon to deliver the information on time. And we have the ability to find reports of possible outbreaks and statements in forums or blogs that indicate unusual occurrences. “
He said Blue Dot’s algorithm does not rely on posts on social networks because that information is “too messy.” The main trick, he explains, is access to ticketing data from airlines that are able to help predict the destination and flight time of affected area residents.
Khan, who worked as an infectious disease expert in Toronto during the 2003 SARS epidemic, dreamed of finding more effective ways to monitor the spread of disease. The SARS virus erupted in China, spread to Hong Kong and then to Toronto, where 44 people died. “In 2003, I saw how the virus had taken over the city and paralyzed the hospital. I thought to myself, let’s not do that again. “
After examining several prediction plans, Khan launched BlueDot and raised $ 9.4 million from venture capital funds. The company now employs 40 employees, doctors and programmers. Blue-Dot reports are sent to the public health system in a dozen countries, including the US and Canada, airlines and hospitals to which the infected may reach. Blue Dot does not sell its information to the public at this time, but is working to do so, Khan said.
One of the surprising side effects of the spread of the Corona virus from China is the renewed interest in veteran mobile game Plauge inc. Launched in 2012, the game builds on a pandemic spread model and allows users to create viruses by different characteristics – infection rate, mortality rate, form of spread, preferred environment, mortality rate, and more. Then, release them into the world for the purpose of destroying the entire population before scientists can develop a cure.
Although it is basically an entertainment tool, the game has educational elements, and it can be understood by means of ways to spread epidemics. The epidemic reports have sparked renewed interest in the game and it is at the top of the list of downloads in 77 countries in Apple’s pastor, including China and Israel.
The renewed interest prompted developer Ndemic Creations to issue a warning to players: “We designed the game to be realistic. But remember that he plays, not a scientific model. ”