A new mobile phone application has been developed to help monitor the spread of infectious diseases such as flu.
The FluPhone app allows phones to “talk” to each other, recording how many people each user meets.
It uses Bluetooth technology to anonymously record interaction between phone owners.
When the phones come into close proximity, the app records this and automatically sends the data to researchers.
The app has been developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory, one of seven institutions working on a study to reduce the impact of epidemics.
A basic version of the FluPhone app was used in a three-month pilot study in Cambridge in 2010.
Study leaders Professor Jon Crowcroft and Dr Eiko Yoneki hope that their most recently-collected data could be used to simulate social interaction during an epidemic or pandemic.
Prof Crowcroft explained that epidemiologists traditionally monitor how a disease spreads by asking patients to keep diaries of their movements and social contacts.
Dr Yoneki added: “The data was a valuable insight into how human communities are formed, how much time people spend together, and how frequently they meet.
“Such data show complex network-like structures, which is very useful for understanding the spread of disease.”
Copyright © Press Association 2011