I read about phone apps used to identify people infected with highly infectious disease such as flu in the neighborhood last year but apparently apps produced to collect data and track the spread of diseases have been developed since 2006. These apps, according to the BBC were first developed for field workers to send data on outbreaks and drug administration to a central database, providing real time data and enabling health officials to make more informed decisions.
By 2009, with the outbreak of swine flu H1N1 there are a hoard of mobile apps for the general populace to use. There’s Outbreaks Near Me developed by HealthMap. According to USA Today it works like a GPS, displaying locations on maps with more information from news coverage or user submitted updates, and aims at “giving people real time alerts” and “not to increase fear.” Other apps include Mobile World Disaster, Swine Flu News Tracker, Influenza A Tracker, etc.
There’s FluPhone developed by Cambridge University Computer Lab which monitors the way infectious disease spread. Using bluetooth, by anonymously recording interactions between volunteers in the study the app record the number of people each “infected subject” meet during an imaginary epidemic. The data provide some insight into our network structure which is useful in the study of the spread of disease.
Here’s a screenshot of HealthMap’s data on Vietnam. Unfortunately, there’s not much information. Apps like this require a large number of users to become useful, and it seems it will be a while to go before it has any impact in the developing world.