Can a single piece of software predict catastrophic events? Microsoft believes it may have found a way to complete that very task.
The software giant alongside the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is developing a disaster-predicting software platform that predicts future events by analyzing news headlines.
The program examines news headlines from different regions in order to spot signs of diseases, outbreaks, and civil unrest that is the result of regional violence.
Eric Horvitz, a co-director at Microsoft Research believes this type of disaster predicting software will soon become commonplace. Horvitz notes:
“I truly view this as a foreshadowing of what’s to come. Eventually this kind of work will start to have an influence on how things go for people.”
The team at Technology Review explains the early efficacy cases of the software. For example in Angola droughts often cause cholera. By examining headlines to determine how far spread a drought in that region has become, Microsoft can determine if an outbreak is likely. Microsoft could then track claims of the cholera to find diseases and then track new cases to determine if an outbreak is on the horizon.
Technology Review points out that “in similar tests involving forecasts of disease, violence, and a significant numbers of deaths, the system’s warnings were correct between 70 to 90 percent of the time.”
Eventually the software could be used to make other predictions outside of disease tracking. For example, areas prone to higher levels of crime could be monitored more closely by police.
Secondary uses for Microsoft’s new disaster predication tool will have to wait, the company does not plan to make its new software available for public use until it has been thoroughly tested and approved for accuracy.
Do you think software firms can effectively predict catastrophic events by paying attention to the news?
[Image via gawker]