Food poisoning in Las Vegas? Not if this machine-learning algorithm can help it

By scanning social media, the app can find likely hot spots

Food poisoning can strike anywhere hygiene standards are lax, but researchers have developed a new app that uses machine learning to help minimize the number of people affected.

One out of every six U.S. residents gets food poisoning each year, and when they do, many of them write about it on Twitter. That's where nEmesis comes in. Developed by computer-science researchers from the University of Rochester, the software uses natural language processing and artificial intelligence to identify food poisoning-related tweets, connect them to restaurants using geotagging and identify likely hot spots.

The researchers developed their app by analyzing almost 4 million tweets generated by people in the New York City metropolitan area in late 2012 and early 2013. Included in the software are deep-learning algorithms trained to recognize key phrases -- "I feel nauseous," for instance.

nemesis machine learning food poisoning Adam Sadilek, University of Rochester

Key features in the researchers' language model.

More recently, the researchers tested the app in Las Vegas through a collaboration with that city's health department. Specifically, Las Vegas began incorporating nEmesis results in its targeting of restaurants to inspect on any given day.

For three months, the system automatically scanned an average of 16,000 tweets from 3,600 users each day. The researchers then used those tweets to generate a list of the highest-priority restaurants for inspections.

"Each morning we gave the city a list of places where we knew that something was wrong so they could do an inspection of those restaurants," said Adam Sadilek, a researcher who worked on the project at the University of Rochester and is now at Google Research.

As a result, there were 9,000 fewer food-poisoning incidents and 557 fewer hospitalizations in Las Vegas during the course of the study, the researchers estimated.

The team presented the research at the 30th Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence conference in February. It received an Innovative Applications of Artificial Intelligence award from the association.

The same approach could also be used in a variety of other ways, Sadilek said.

"This happens to be restaurants, but the method can also be used for bedbugs," he explained. "Similarly, you can look what people tweet about after they visit their doctor or hospital. We're just beginning to scratch the surface of what's possible."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Google

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Katherine Noyes

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Ada Chan

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

I highly recommend the Dynabook Portégé® X30L-G notebook for everyday business use, it is a benchmark setting notebook of its generation in the lightweight category.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?