If there's one Silicon Valley firm that's wildly creative it's Google. Sure Microsoft might make all encompassing OS's and miss few details, Nintendo may make intuitive gaming devices, and Apple may make the most chic portable electronics, but these companies fall short of Google in terms of sheer zaniness of some of their ideas.
Perhaps it’s the playpens of multi-colored balls, or maybe something in the water, but ideas that anyone else would think of as crazy, Google not only listens to -- it goes for on a continual basis. A perfect example was Google Goggles, a new Gmail API aimed at preventing you from drunk emailing.
Now the realm of weird, but strangely useful Google Apps has another addition -- Google Flu Trends. Google Flu Trends is an initiative of Google.org, Google's philanthropic arm.
The device's base mechanic is either brilliant or invasive. It tracks user searches of topics such as "flu symptoms" or "muscle aches" by location. By aggregating this data and correlating it to location, Google Flu Trends develops maps of where flu outbreaks are occurring.
How accurate is Google Flu Trends? On average, it has begun to pick up outbreaks a couple weeks before the Centers For Disease Control, the critical government organization tasked with tracking disease, can. Considering the amount of medical data in the hands of the CDC and its vast funding, Google Flu Trends' superior accuracy is yet another impressive or perhaps scary testament to Google's power and all-seeing eye.
The new site has the potential to save lives as the flu still kills many elderly people and those with compromised immune systems yearly. By identifying outbreak zones, hand washing protocols can be emphasized, public awareness campaigns can be carried out, and people can take supplements geared towards strengthening the immune system.
Google is diligently sharing its reports with the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the Influenza Division at CDC, perhaps to the Center's chagrin.
If you want to check them out for yourself, you can head over to the main site.
What will Google dream up next? It's hard to say, but nothing seems impossible for the Swiss-Army knife-like company.