Cell Phone-Based Epidemiology For H1N1 Flu

A mobile phone-based program will track your movements and then then report back to you if your path has crossed that of someone infected with H1N1 flu virus - the swine flu. Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications hopes to test the system this fall.


(Swine flu H1N1)

The proposed system relies on mobile phone providers to constantly track the subjects’ geographical locations and keep chronological records of their movements in a database. When a person is labeled as “infected,” all the past location data in the database is analyzed to determine whether or not anyone came within close proximity to the infected individual.

The system will know, for example, whether or not you once boarded the same train or sat in the same movie theater as the infected individual, and it will send you a text message containing the details of the close encounter. The text messages will also provide instructions on specific measures to take in response.


(Cell phone towers versus population [SoCal])

The project will involve 2,000 volunteers; if it is successful, it could be used across a much larger segment of the population.

It is a source of constant amazement to me that the surveillance potential of a common object - the cell phone - is far greater than the worst nightmares of writers like Ray Bradbury (in Fahrenheit 451) and George Orwell (in 1984). And yet, if you knew that you shared a long bus ride with someone with the flu, might you choose to ask your doctor for Tamiflu to mitigate your symptoms?

Real-time information provided by cell phones has been used in Western Europe for traffic reporting since 2007. (Nokia is investing in a Northern California cell phone information / traffic management system.)

There are even applications for us ordinary consumers; I wrote an article last year about an application called Citysense, which shows where all the nightlife is going on.

Via Pink Tentacle.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 5/19/2009)

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