On 30 December 2019 — just before New Year’s Eve — an AI platform picked up on a cluster of unusual pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China.
Nine days before the World Health Organisation (WHO) raised the alarm about COVID-19 in January 2020, Toronto-based start-up, BlueDot, had already issued a warning about the pandemic.
Their AI-powered early-warning system for disease outbreaks had sifted through thousands of global data sources to track, locate and conceptualise the spread of the virus.
Integrating human movement data sets and flight schedules, they were able to visualise and understand travel patterns to correctly predict the spread of COVID-19 from Wuhan to Bangkok, Seoul, Taipei, and Tokyo in the days following its initial appearance.
Behind the scenes, BlueDot’s AI platform monitors more than 150 diseases around the world daily to identify spikes in activity by scanning thousands of global data sources — statements from official public health organisations, digital media, airline ticketing data, livestock health reports and population demographics.
“When COVID-19 hit the main news, there was a spike in the amount of data our platform needed to ingest to ensure we weren’t missing anything — staying ahead of the curve,” said Adriano Nicolucci, Senior Manager of Data Engineering at BlueDot.
“We leveraged FME dynamic engines to scale up and run more jobs concurrently to support the increase in data volumes.”
FME software enabled the integration of multiple data formats to be fed into the AI platform to identify the spikes in disease occurrences.
The result has been a global, comprehensive view of disease incidents, not just COVID-19 — the platform predicted the spread of the Zika virus to Florida six-months before it happened and an uptick in Lassa fever cases in West Africa.
While the world continues to focus on the coronavirus, BlueDot’s machine learning algorithms continue to scan global data sources for anomalies to keep tabs on outbreaks happening around the clock and provide time-critical warnings for health professionals worldwide.