Google, as a search engine, can have some surprising uses and the internet giant showed that in a rather convincing matter by showing a very strong correlation between data collected by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and its own Keyword tracking service, Google Trends.
The data set, which goes back to 2003, shows that groups of people searching for flu-related content and using flu-related keywords can predict the start of flu outbreaks up to 14 days in advance, which could help the US Health department prepare itself better.
Ultimately, Google could roll out the same service to other countries and include other illnesses as well and go beyond the Health sector. Google can monitor flu trends down to the individual states and the company has already said that it is only tracking trends rather than individual clicks.
Earlier this year, there were rumours that Google was going to launch Google Heath, a "Method and apparatus for serving advertisements in an electronic medical record system", and while the URL is still active, trying to login doesn't bring up any pages.
Punters can download weekly influenza-like illness estimates for the US should they want to go through the figures.
Just like the 3D reconstruction of Rome 320AD through Google Earth, Google usage of collected data to propose a compelling tool could possibly be a breakthrough in terms of bringing segregated data sets together.
Google health quick tour
A deeper look at Google Health
Google Releases Its Newest Service: Flu Trends