Google to Collect Data on the Human Body

Image: Google to Collect Data on the Human Body (Dreamstime)

Friday, 25 Jul 2014 11:59 AM

By John Blosser

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Computer search engine giant Google is the latest high-tech company to launch inroads into the health field with a new massive study designed to map a model of the perfectly functioning human body.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the project, called Baseline Study, will collect anonymous health information from 175 people, later to expand to thousands, to develop ways to detect diseases and health problems much earlier than now possible.

Reminiscent of the classic 1966 sci-fi movie "Fantastic Voyage," where a medical crew in a miniaturized submarine was injected into a human body on a lifesaving mission, high-tech computer firms like Apple and Samsung are injecting themselves more and more into the healthcare field, Business Insider reports.

BI notes that Apple has hooked up with the Mayo Clinic to develop HealthKit, an early warning system to monitor health statistics on a daily basis, read vital signs, and notify your doctor if a problem pops up.

Samsung, meanwhile, says it is developing SAMI, or Samsung Architecture Multimedia Interactions, which uses a wearable Simband, like a wristwatch, to track blood flow, hydration, skin temperature and other health signs, in partnership with the University of California at San Francisco and the Belgian research firm IMEC.

"This is just the beginning of the journey," Ram Fish, Samsung's vice president of digital health, told Business Insider.

Google has hired molecular biologist Dr. Andrew Conrad, who developed inexpensive mass tests for the HIV virus, to head the project, and he told the WSJ, "With any complex system, the notion has always been there to proactively address problems. That's not revolutionary. We are just asking the question, 'If we really wanted to be proactive, what would we need to know?' You need to know what the fixed, well-running thing should look like."

Using state of the art diagnostic tools like special "smart" contact lenses equipped with sensors to collect data on glucose levels in teardrops, and others still under development, massive amounts of data will be gathered.

According to the Daily Mail, the collected data will be monitored by third-party clinic review boards, with anonymity guaranteed before it is shared with Google, and information will not be made available to insurance companies.

"That's certainly an issue that's been discussed," Dr. Sam Gambhir, radiology chair at Stanford University which, along with Duke, is working on the project, told WSJ. "Google will not be allowed free rein to do whatever it wants with this data."

Given that WSJ reports that Fredonia Group estimates that worldwide healthcare costs are projected to reach $10.8 trillion per year by 2017, Dr. Conrad noted, "We shouldn't put a slash through our mission statement and say that healthcare is excluded."

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