New 3D analysis to target flu breakouts, says industry expert

Aug 15, 2014 -- A new technology breakthrough could help Australia battle the dreaded flu epidemics that claim up to 3,500 lives annually, according to one of the world’s foremost authorities on geospatial technology.

Lauren Bennett – spatial analysis expert and Product Engineer at global Geographic Information System (GIS) technology giant Esri – will visit Australia for the first time in October to address key industry leaders at the country’s largest spatial event, Ozri 2014.

Speaking from her base in California, Ms Bennett said advancements in mapping technology could provide unprecedented insights into how influenza and other disease outbreaks spread in Australia and who is most at risk.

“For example, in the case of an influenza epidemic, we can now create 3D temporal maps of incidents to identify hot spots where the time of the outbreak provides the third dimension,” said Ms Bennett.

“So instead of viewing a flat 2D map showing longitude and latitude, a 3D, cube-like structure is created that lets us visualise certain time periods where outbreaks have occurred.

“We can then use space-time pattern mining techniques to analyse these huge amounts of data and understand any significant trends in the outbreaks – such as seasonal patterns.

“From there we can identify what measures must be taken to limit future incidents during similar peak periods.”

Ms Bennett said the new approach would reveal the underlying factors at play during flu outbreaks, such as low immunisation rates.

“Spatial analysis can be used to identify high-risk areas and plan vaccination campaigns targeting particular groups of people, as well as to assess the effectiveness of immunisation programs.”

GIS technology is already widely used by global health organisations including the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

In Australia, the technology has been used by major health departments and hospitals to analyse the causes of childhood obesity and to identify cardiac disease hotspots.

Hosted by GIS technology giants Esri Australia, Ozri 2014 will bring together global and local industry leaders to discuss new spatial technology advancements.

The event will be held at the Adelaide Oval, South Australia, from 1 to 3 October 2014. 

Registration for Ozri 2014 is now open at

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