Innovation Inspiration is a monthly highlight of startups, entrepreneurs, and new products that we feel are changing digital marketing in ways that we all can learn from. Enjoy!
Here at iQ Headquarters, it’s a sunny day with temperatures expected to be in the low 80′s. Sounds almost like paradise, right? Yet, for some reason, sounds of coughing and sneezing are filling the hallways. What gives?
According to Sickweather.com, it seems that allergies are flaring up in the area. Sickweather, one of the latest social health networks to hit the market, uses real-time information from Twitter and Facebook to forecast illness outbreaks.
We thought that was a pretty neat idea so we decided to chat with CEO and co-founder, Graham Dodge, to hear how his team is innovating new solutions for better healthcare.
I started in web development and online marketing during the dot-com bubble and I was on the team that developed the first interactive US Crime Map for a site called Crime.com. My career took many turns since then, including some time as an Art Director for MTV. Almost two years ago, I was sick with a stomach bug and when I wanted to know if what I had was going around (as opposed to some crazy Martian Death Flu) I turned to Facebook. I had become accustomed to seeing my friends post updates when they were sick, and sure enough, I found a friend nearby in DC who was experiencing the same symptoms as me. That’s when it occurred to me that this was a search that could be done on a much larger scale using the public APIs for Facebook and Twitter.
There was a mom who sent us a message on Twitter, thanking us, saying that she saw her local Sickweather forecast was calling for allergies, so she preemptively stocked up on allergy medication for her children. Sure enough, her kids started experiencing allergy symptoms later that week, and she was already prepared. That was the best testimonial we could ever ask for.
Early on, AdWeek dubbed us the ‘Facebook for hypochondriacs’, which to be the Facebook of anything just out of the gate was a huge compliment. Otherwise, our concept has resonated very well with the general public and the media. Many of the pharmaceutical brands who have contacted us see an advantage to having an engaged audience of people currently dealing with the symptoms and illnesses that their brands treat, while also allowing the brands to be part of the social media conversation without having to curate their own pages and deal with off-label reporting. To me, the brands are also there to help close the feedback loop for our members who have an immediate need for their products, which is exactly why we’re developing our advertising program simultaneously with the rest of our service rather than just layering it on as an after thought.
Unfortunately, I’ve signed a couple of NDAs that prevent me from talking about some of the more exciting research that’s just around the corner. But I can say that there is a lot of research being done in mobile data mining and machine learning that will lead to a healthcare renaissance. Our own advisors from Johns Hopkins University, Mark Dredze, PhD and Michael Paul, are active in this area. Also, I know from speaking with public health officials that there is great interest in “closing the feedback loop” to provide people the advice and early warnings that they need to head the spread of illness off at the pass. What also excites me is a less quantifiable Hawthorne Effect that all this technology and monitoring will have on the general public, who may begin to augment their behavior and live a healthier lifestyle if for no other reason than that they don’t want to be a statistic in a study. I look forward to clear skies in the Sickweather forecast.
I always look to my family and friends for inspiration first, which is why our development team have all been friends since high school. Otherwise, I read Slashdot regularly for my technology news, as well as Mashable and TechCrunch. But as someone who lived in L.A. for many years and worked in the entertainment industry, I really appreciate the creative thinking that goes into science fiction. It’s my personal M.O. that if an idea for a new Sickweather feature wouldn’t integrate seamlessly into a Philip K. Dick or Gene Roddenberry storyline, then it’s not intuitive or simple enough.