How big data is used in weather forecasting, diabetes management

September 19, 2018 11:58
Bigfoot Biomedical has developed an insulin infusion device that mimics the function of the pancreas to enable the delivery of optimized insulin dosages to a diabetes patient. Photo: Bigfoot Biomedical

Since the dawn of man, we have always been looking for ever more accurate methods of solving problems. The rise of big data has certainly been a big help.

Typhoon forecasts and the treatment of diabetes, though totally unrelated, are two examples of how technology can make a big difference.

The Chinese word for typhoon was first used in the late Ming Dynasty. In the old days, people used wind direction and abnormal animal behavior, such as deep-water fish coming near the shore, to forecast the arrival of a storm.

Though weather forecast techniques have improved a lot in modern times, there is still plenty of room for enhancement.

Meteorologists admit that there are still blind points in projecting the maximum wind speed and amount of precipitation, for example.

A study by the Shanghai Typhoon Institute shows that if the margin of error in projecting the 24-hour path of a typhoon can be cut by just 1 kilometer, direct economic losses could be reduced by 98 million yuan (US$14.28 million).

By looking at traffic data, big data technology can assist the public in responding to extreme weather conditions in a faster way.

Separately, diabetes has been recorded in China since ancient times. Chinese doctors have long concluded that diet and mood are very critical factors in the emergence of the condition.

Currently, there are nearly 500 million diabetes patients around the world. In the United States alone, there are over 30 million confirmed patients, making diabetes the nation’s seventh leading cause of death.

The large number of diabetes patients has caught the attention of technology firms. They are now using big data and artificial intelligence to provide useful healthcare and lifestyle management tools to control the disease.

Bigfoot Biomedical, for example, has developed an insulin infusion device that mimics the function of the pancreas to enable the delivery of optimized insulin dosage by monitoring a patient’s reaction to food, exercise and insulin.

Diabetes is a complicated disease, and patients have to manage their lifestyle strictly.

That being the case, some companies have set up a network of sensors and mobile apps to automate and optimize diabetes management.

By collecting data on blood glucose, insulin, blood pressure, and weight, and then combining them with data on diet and drugs, better medical care and self-management by the patients would be possible.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug 18

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Venture Partner of Sequoia Capital China, former head of the data committee and vice president at Alibaba Group.