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Getting ill-informed

Här finns framtidens it-prylar_Illbook_litenIt’s a tough call to make: it’s a work night and suddenly you’re feeling a little dizzy. A little tickle creeps into the back of your throat. Come to think of it, you’re feeling a little clammy too. Could be you’re coming down with something; but you’re not really sure about it. And what about that 9 a.m. meeting you’ve organized for tomorrow? Do you start emailing everyone now, or wait until 7 a.m. when you’re trying to get the kids ready for school in between emergency trips to the bathroom?

But what if there were an app that could predict whether you’ll be sick tomorrow, as well as whether your colleagues are getting sick?

Too creepy? Or awesomely practical?

That’s the question raised by an app designed by researchers at KTH’s Mobile Life research center. Right now, Illbook is a design specification, and it’s intended in part to provoke thought about how far we want to go with personal health in the Internet of Things.

The idea is that the app mines your personal data and applies analytics to predict when you will get sick. It draws on info that can be readily be collected from your mobile, including whom you met in recent days, if your child had symptoms of illness, and which of your colleagues have been ill.

The app could also use sensors if you connect them. With enough data, it is possible to predict whether you — or even a colleague — will be sick tomorrow.

If you think this is starting to sound a little invasive, you’re not alone. According to the project site, these Illbook scenarios are intended to expose “policy issues that need to be addressed around data and employment regulations, as it makes visible tensions between efficiency and usefulness on the one hand and privacy and data ownership on the other. Furthermore, the designs reveal tensions around the stories that can be told about our bodies based on our digital traces.”

But, on the plus side, you won’t have to worry about canceling meetings while you’re vomiting. And you can proactively prevent the spread of infection at the office. You’re colleagues might just thank you — if you care to tell them you’ve been using data this way.

David Callahan


KTH School of Information and Communication Technology


Read: The future of digital gadgetry

David Callahan
David Callahan is editor for international news and media at KTH Royal Institute of Technology.