23.09.2014

Can Big Data Improve Our Health?

Can Big Data Improve Our Health?

Image | USDA

The past two decades of technology in general, and in information technology in particular, has experienced an enormous advance, thanks mostly to the development of the Internet. Today much of the world uses computers on a daily basis, smartphones, social networks and many other interconnected resources via the cloud, despite their differences, have a very important characteristic in common: the ability to generate data. The volume of information that we generate every day is enormous, for this it is essential that we are capable of analyzing this data, filtering it and making relevant conclusions that will help us to take decisions and improve our quality of life. This is precisely the purpose of Big Data.

The difficulty to analyze all of this information is not caused only by its sheer volume, but also its structure. Usually, we are forced to make decisions with very different types of data that cannot be analyzed using traditional techniques. This is where Big Data is precisely relevant. The best of all is that we can use these analysis techniques and technology in very different ways. It is useful for companies in the process of decision making, as it may help to understand the environment, to develop our education system, or drive scientific progress, among others. Big Data is even playing a key role in improving our health, and its relevance will be even greater as the volume of human generated data grows. Let´s see why.

Here´s how Big Data can protect our health

Can Big Data Improve Our Health?

Image | Geograph

One of the most important contributions that Big Data is making in regards to health has to do directly with scientific research. There are currently many studies underway that are using this set of techniques to develop our knowledge of our own organism, and above all, to provide solutions to allow us to more effectively fight disease. Two good examples are the projects from Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the PSG College of Technology. The first is using Big Data to analyze the data from the investigations of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), and is expected to be a turning point in the fight to combat important health problems. The second is dedicated to analyzing protein sequences to determine evolutive links and predict molecular structures.

On the other hand, Big Data is also being used by some public institutions to predict the possible appearance in society of illnesses and other sanitary problems, and to finding the best way to fight them. The Public Health Department of Chicago, for example, is using predictive analysis models designed to provide information about food preservation, the efficiency of the rules that limit tobacco consumption and the health inspection programs. However, probably the most important is that Big Data plays an essential role in what public health experts consider the most effective measure to fight health problems: prevention. It is thanks to these technologies that it´s possible to identify a health emergency before it occurs, to therefore introduce measures to help us prevent it.

The most interesting thing is that the technologies that enable Big Data are not only relevant on a large scale, to make decisions of a global nature in healthcare; but we can all contribute by providing data that can be processed using these techniques, and our favor will be returned in the form of effective treatments that can help to improve our health. In this context mobile technologies play an essential role, and the devices that allow us to remain «connected», such as our smartphones, are the ideal vehicles to collect valuable data that medical organizations can use to improve our health.

These apps also take care of our health

Can Big Data Improve Our Health?

Image | Cue

Today we can find in the main mobile app stores (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, etc.) dozens of apps designed specifically to ensure our health, and capable of collecting data that can then be processed using Big Data techniques. Some of them, like Big White Wall, which is available for iOS and Android, or Cognitive Diary CBT Self-Help, valid only for phones with Android, are a great resource to fight depression. Others, such as Glooko, available for iOS and Android, or MyNetDiary: Diabetes Tracker, work on devices with iOS,and can help us slow down diabetes, a disease that more and more people suffer from, especially in Western countries.

These are just a few examples of mobile apps related to health that are capable of collecting data, but in this context it´s also worth mentioning Cue, a small personal health monitor that we can connect to our smartphone to know how our health evolves daily and what we can do to improve it. Cue was designed to measure our Vitamin D, testosterone level, fertility level and many other parameters that, once transferred to our smartphone, can be combined with others and used to make decisions that can help us to improve the global health of society. However, in order to do this we still have to wait a little, as the creators have confirmed that it will not be available until Spring 2015, and will cost 199 dollars (about 150 euros).

The mHealth competence centre forms part of Mobile World Capital Barcelona’s Programme of International Competence Centers (PCCI). mHealth works with a three-fold objective: to identify mobile technology opportunities in the provision of health services, to transform current healthcare models and processes, and promote the interoperability of health services in the field of mobile technologies and connectivity, building foundations that make it possible to integrate mobile health solutions.

Mobile World Capital presents a global vision that effectively integrates mobile technologies into the fabric of the industries transforming our lives. Committed to expanding the mobile experience throughout Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain with strong support of the public and private sector.

Mobile World Capital is leading mobile transformation through commitments in Competence Centres, local Industry Development, and Entrepreneurship and Innovation programmes.

MWCapital offers an open platform and exhibition showroom where citizens can understand and experience how mobile is enhancing our lives: The Mobile World Centre, located in the heart of Barcelona on Plaza Catalunya.

More information: