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This article was published on April 9, 2020

AI predicts where coronavirus cases will spike next

Dataminr analyzed social media to forecast spikes across the UK

AI predicts where coronavirus cases will spike next Image by: Keith Hall
Thomas Macaulay
Story by

Thomas Macaulay

Writer at Neural by TNW Writer at Neural by TNW

An AI has predicted which areas of the UK will suffer spikes in coronavirus cases next by analyzing social media posts about COVID-19.

These posts suggest that outbreaks will soon hit Manchester, Liverpool, Oxfordshire, Leeds, Northamptonshire, and Luton.

The system was created by Dataminr, a risk detection tech firm with a track record of detecting where the virus will spread to next.

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It previously predicted outbreaks in London, Hertfordshire, Essex, and Kent, between 7-13 days before these areas had spikes in coronavirus cases. In the US, Dataminr forecast outbreaks in 14 different states. Seven days after the company published its predictions, all states had been hit hard by the pandemic seven days later.

[Read: MIT researchers use AI to turn the coronavirus into a haunting melody]

The same method has now spotted similar pre-outbreak patterns in six regions of the UK.

Predicting the pandemic

Dataminr’s AI divided first-hand social media posts about the coronavirus into different geo-localized hotspots.

The system doesn’t measure aggregate social media chatter or keyword mentions related to the pandemic. Instead, it finds unique posts from individuals indicating they have coronavirus symptoms, have tested positive or been exposed to the virus. It also includes first-hand accounts of confirmed cases from their relatives, friends, and coworkers.

This approach aims to cut out gossip and misleading COVID-19 references to create a ground truth picture of how the outbreak is progressing.

Credit: Dataminr
The AI suggested that the virus is spreading to the north of the UK

The findings will be hard to hear for the regions where spikes are expected. But they at least give governments, companies, and citizens new insights that can help them plan their responses.

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