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IBM’s The Weather Company Deploys Real-Time Cold & Flu App

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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The IBM division is to provide real-time local maps of cold and flu outbreaks based on social media data

IBM subsidiary The Weather Company has launched a cold and flu information service that analyses data from social media, amongst other sources, to alert individuals of outbreaks in their area.

The company said the Cold and Flu Tracker, which is sponsored by GSK Consumer Healthcare’s Theraflu brand, is part of a wider initiative applying cutting-edge machine learning techniques to the advertising field.

Real-time mapping

artifical intelligence

The service, available on weather.com, Theraflu.com and The Weather Company’s mobile application, draws on data from social media analytics company Sickweather and US government public health body the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to display an interactive, real-time heat map of disease outbreaks in national and local areas.

Sickweather, launched in 2011, analyses people’s conversations on social platforms, picking out terms that indicate individuals or their friends may have particular illnesses, and uses natural language processing and large-scale data analytics techniques to turn the information into maps and forecasts along the lines of weather predictions.

Last year the company developed a mobile application called Healthyday with Johnson & Johnson division McNeil Consumer Healthcare to provide local illness outbreak and allergy alerts.

Artificially intelligent ads

The IBM service is targeted at a broader audience, however, being provided on The Weather Company’s website and through the health module of its mobile app.

The service is part of a wider marketing campaign by GSK that will also see it applying IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence technology to deploy interactive ads.

Individuals will be able to interact with the ads via voice or text with questions such as “How long is flu contagious?”, with Watson Ads providing relevant responses.

Watson is one of IBM’s flagship initiatives and it has worked to apply the technology to everything from Internet-connected consumer electronics to social care schemes.

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