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Microsoft, Israeli researchers develop disaster prediction software

Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Microsoft created software that predicts when and where disease outbreaks, violence and natural disasters could occur.

Technion-Israel Microsoft Natural disaster predictionEnlarge
This picture taken on Jan. 28, 2013 shows the twin masted yacht the 'Patricia Mary' washed up on Baraga beach in Bundaberg after the passing of tropical cyclone Oswald. (Cameron Robinson/AFP/Getty Images)

Researchers from Microsoft and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed software that can predict when and where outbreaks might occur, Tom Simonite of MIT Technology Review reports.

The system, which taps into 22 years worth of archives from The New York Times, works by identifying and analyzing clues from news reports and more than 90 other data sources from the web.  

The prototype software can predict things like disease outbreaks, violence, and natural disasters.

For example, when tested on historical data from 2006, the system correctly predicted a cholera outbreak based on reports of droughts in Angola. The software is right between 70 to 90 percent of the time.

Eric Horvitz, a scientist and co-director at Microsoft Research, told Simonite that a refined version of the system could be used in real settings to help experts prepare for emergency and humanitarian response, for example.

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