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AI System Projected First Warnings of the Wuhan Coronavirus

A Canadian health monitoring platform that uses an AI algorithm sent warnings about the Wuhan coronavirus on December 31, a week earlier than the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on January 6 and the World Health Organization’s notifications of a flu-like outbreak on January 9.

Bluedot uses an AI-driven algorithm to scour new reports worldwide, plant and animal disease networks, and official proclamations to alert its clients in advance of potential dangers. Social media postings are not included but global airline ticketing data is used to help predict where and when infected residents are going next. For instance, its AI correctly predicted that the Wuhan coronavirus would be next seen in Bangkok, Seoul, Tokyo, and Taipei based on its airline data.

“We know that governments may not be relied upon to provide information in a timely fashion,” said Kamran Khan, BlueDot’s founder and CEO, to Wired. “We can pick up news of possible outbreaks, little murmurs or forums or blogs of indications of some kind of unusual events going on.”

Khan had previous experience working as a hospital infectious disease specialist in Toronto during the 2003 SARS epidemic, which started in China and Hong Kong before jumping to Toronto, killing 44 people. From this experience, Khan developed BlueDot in 2014, raising $9.5 million in venture capital funding. Currently the company has 40 employees, physicians and programmers, who develop the disease surveillance AI program.

Once the automated data-sifting concludes, human epidemiologists scientifically check the conclusions before sending reports to governments, public health clients, and businesses. In the future, BlueDot hopes to sell their data to the general public, Khan told Wired.

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