Interesting article from ReadWriteWeb about the release of Google Flu Trends that highlights the usefulness of aggregating information from search queries – in this case, relating to influenza. The idea is simple – by tracking search queries relating to influenza (eg queries about symptoms, cures, treatment etc), the team at Google.org (Google’s non-profit arm) they discovered that – after cross-referencing that data against information from the Center for Disease Control – they had the ability to predict flu outbreaks by monitoring search patterns. And the advantage of doing this…? Traditional flu surveillance systems take 1-2 weeks to collect and release surveillance data, but Google search queries can be automatically counted very quickly, making their flu estimates available each day, and thus providing an early-warning system for outbreaks of influenza. The ReadWriteWeb article has a cool animated graph that illustrates this point.