Just in time for the flu season (ugh...), Google has given an overhaul to its Flu Trends service. At one point, this service was highly praised for the job it was doing, but in recent years, that praise has turned to criticism. By now, big mistakes really can't be accepted, and last year in particular, there was a big one: It vastly over-predicted flu levels. Google isn't cowering, though; it fully admits that the service needed improving, and so, it's been improved.
Recent research done by four social scientists settled on the fact that Google's Flu Trends would be made far more accurate if it were to take traditional data into consideration, instead of relying entirely on its own algorithms and trend-tracking mechanics. Ultimately, it was suggested that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's data be brought into the equation, something that Google wholeheartedly agrees with.
As the flu season progresses, Google will continue to fetch data from the CDC to keep its results as accurate possible. Who this increased accuracy will truly benefit is health professionals; ultimately, the goal here is to highlight outbreaks as quickly as possible, to better attack them.
Today, Google's Flu Trends service is available in 29 countries, and a newer service, called Dengue Trends, is available in 10 countries. With these new Flu Trends mechanics in place, hopefully we'll see great results and a more positive blog post a year from now.