Caroline Buckee’s research on mining cellphone data to track how people’s movements correlate with the spread of disease has been named one of the top 10 “breakthrough technologies” for 2013 by MIT’s Technology Review magazine.
Research published in October 2012 in the journal Science by Buckee, assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, revealed—on the largest scale ever—how human travel patterns contribute to the spread of malaria. The information was gleaned by combining cellphone data from 15 million people in Kenya with detailed information on the regional incidence of malaria.
Based on this data, Buckee is now working on predictive models to help pinpoint where best to focus malaria control efforts. Such efforts will likely make further use of cellphone technology—for example, they might include text messages urging the use of bednets in malaria hotspots. “This is the future of epidemiology,” Buckee said in an April 23, 2013 Technology Review article. “If we are to eradicate malaria, this is how we will do it.”