January 6, 2016

Google Is Using Big Data to Debunk Sickness Mysteries

Trisha Miller

Google has announced a new project called Verily that will use big data to more quickly identify disease and sickness before it becomes a deadly issue for the affected. Unlike other healthcare options, this project aims to collect information about each individual that chooses to participate in order to provide direct and personalized courses of action.

The Verily project was previously part of the Google X (lunar exploration team) sector in addition to the Google Life Sciences department. The company, which is officially now called Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL) has chosen to separate the sections in order to more directly and precisely achieve each department’s individual goals. The Google Life Sciences department is now named Verily, which means truly or truthfully.

Potentially a groundbreaking idea, Verily is unlike any other big data user that has ever been. The most common forms of big data users are companies that produce entertainment and social media platforms like Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX). Of course, Facebook uses a recommendation engine to show the user personalized pages and people “they might like” and Netflix does the same through TV shows and movies. Think of this as that same concept, but on steroids.

Verily’s new system will, with the introduction of the smartwatch, potentially be able to import a huge amount of data directly from each user’s personalized wristband. Apple watches and Fitbits everywhere can be used as an endless well of medical information for personalized diagnosis and treatment. In conjunction with this project announcement, it’s no surprise that Google has also been investing in other partner projects like Novartis, which is making smart contact lenses that will measure things like glucose levels in diabetes patients. In addition, the group also has their hands in robotics. Their goal is to provide surgeons with robotic companions that will perfect the art of performing “non-invasive” surgeries with a level of precision that has not yet been seen before.

What’s more, Google has the opportunity to take a large amount of guess work right out of the diagnosis process. Imagine a world where your watch could record all your daily health related activities. What you ate, where you’ve been, what exercise you’ve been up to etc. This information wouldn’t have to be inputted manually, which would be convenient for the user and medical examiner both and would be much more precise than having to guess and think back on what the patient had been up to since the last visit. Physicians would not only be able to understand one person’s sickness much better, but possibly the progression of sickness in a person and how to better treat it. Also, doctors could even have the possibility of understanding genetic diseases exponentially in the future.

To start, the team has started conducting experiments that will emulate what perfect health in a human being would look like. This project has been in the works for some time, and is known as The Baseline Study. Specific initial volunteers for this project have been chosen from around the world and are donating their time and blood in order for Google and the Verily project to import their findings to a massive database. The team hopes this will help them to be able to identify early signs of sickness and disease before it is too late.

The introduction video that Verily has released states, “Instead of episodic reactive healthcare, we should promote preventative and proactive healthcare”. A truly ingenious use of big data for an incredibly humanitarian effort. As technology constantly progresses at a staggering rate we realize that this type of discovery has been right under our noses. We just need the right team to be able to pull it all together.

For more information, see the Verily video below.

 

About the author: Trisha Miller is a freelance writer from Boise, Idaho. She is a dedicated vegan who promotes an all-around healthy lifestyle. She can be found dabbling in SFX makeup, playing video games, and hanging with her two cats.

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