Big Data is really vast as it consists of data sets that are so unbelievably vast and complex that traditional computing cannot cope and whole new technologies have to be developed to collect, manage and analyse them. But have you ever given a thought to use Big Data to fight diseases? Certainly, not. But yes, this is true. Big Data holds a major role in fighting against diseases. It has become the integral weapon of the 21st century.
In carrying forward this battle is world-renowned scientist Alessandro Vespignani, who is using Big Data to predict a pandemic’s progression. Vespignani is the Sternberg Family Distinguished University Professor of Physics, Computer Science, and Health Sciences at the Northeastern University. Just recently he discussed the ways his MoBS Lab is using all types of data including flight patterns to mobile phone information which is all used to determine the spread of the disease. He gave a lecture in the Raytheon Amphitheater which was the part of the “Minds over Matters: NUterm Faculty Speaker Series.” his lecture focused mainly upon the five points described below:
- Stepping down onto the microscopic level- according to Vesipignani, the best way to develop a model that projects future trends is to look at a system on the microscopic scale. A single individual is to be followed to find out where she goes during the day, how she gets there and with whom she interacts, with the help of which Vespignani and fellow network scientists can create a large-scale simulation of the evolution of a disease.
- Transportation affects the spread of disease- nowadays, due to planes, trains, and other modes of transportation, epidemics like the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s travel much quicker and in point-to-point fluxes. According to Vesipignani transportation creates a wave showing how the disease spread at different velocities based on where people travelled.
- Human behavioral change is a major hurdle- as humans tend to change their day to day behavior to avoid infection, it becomes difficult for scientists to predict accurate models.
- It can do more than just predicting disease- Vespignani’s lab has a forecasting system which can be used for other systems as well.
“Everything has a spreading process and when we look at the contagion process, rather than following an individual we follow an event,” said Vespignani.
- Culling from Big Data- according to Vesipignani, there is no recipe for culling data from mountains of available information. Everything has to be figured out case to case.