The AI-driven algorithm underlying the Canadian health monitoring platform BlueDot managed to give the first warning about the outbreak of Wuhan virus almost a week ahead of health care officials.

BlueDot gave the warning on December 31, whereas the first official statement on the matter came from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on January 6. The World Health Care Organization was able to issue the notification on the virus outbreak in China only on January 9.

Apart from the official statements, the algorithm scans through news reports, animal and plant disease networks and even global airline ticketing data. The analysis of the latter allowed it to correctly predict the spread of the virus to Bangkok, Seoul, Taipei, and Tokyo in just a few days after its initial outbreak in Wuhan.

Kamran Khan, BlueDot’s founder and CEO doubted the ability of governments to “provide information in a timely fashion”.

“We can pick up news of possible outbreaks, little murmurs or forums or blogs of indications of some kind of unusual events going on,” – he added, while explaining the reasons for successful prediction made by his AI-powered algorithm.

At the same time, he noted that BlueDot does not regard social media as a reliable source of information due to the messiness of data posted there.

BlueDot was launched in 2014 and raised $9.4 million in venture capital funding. Its сurrent staff of 40 is made up not only of programmers but also physicians who analyze the data provided by the disease surveillance program. The algorithm is built upon the combination of machine learning and natural-language processing. It is capable of sifting through various pieces of data in 65 languages.

Meanwhile, the flu-like virus keeps on spreading across the world despite almost unprecedented quarantine efforts being made by the Chinese government. Eight Chinese cities populated by 35 million people are quarantined. As reported by The Wall Street Journal on Friday, hospitals in Wuhan are already facing shortages in supplies.


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