Researchers believe they can predict how long you will live using big data

Researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) claim they can predict life expectancy by studying data collected by healthcare providers.

Statisticians, computer scientists and medics from UEA have launched a four-year project that will test how factors such as lifestyle, medical conditions and medical interventions affect “mortality and longevity”.

“People around the world are living longer. We want to develop software tools that use big data routinely collected by healthcare providers to forecast longevity,” said lead researcher, Prof Elena Kulinskaya.

“When we talk about Big Data what we mean is data that is vast, complex and difficult to analyse. We want to be able to use it to see statistical life expectancy trends, based on large-scale population-based data collected over the long term.”

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The research team imagine that using big data to predict lifespan will benefit both patients and healthcare providers.

Knowing how long you are likely to live benefits patients by helping them plan for retirement, while healthcare providers will enjoy savings from knowing how particular drugs such as statins or beta-blockers affect longevity.

“Pension contributions were recently freed, so now people can take their pension pots out and use them as they wish. But to be able to plan for retirement, and to understand how much you can spend, it is good to have some idea of your life expectancy,” said Prof Kulinskaya.

“As well as being useful for people planning retirement, it is also important for GPs deciding whether and when to prescribe particular drugs or how to advise their patients. It could also benefit local health authorities planning resources, and insurance companies deciding on the size of pension you can buy with your pension pot.”

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The research project, called ‘Use of Big Health and Actuarial Data for Understanding Longevity and Morbidity Risks’, is particularly focused on finding out how various chronic diseases and their treatments impact life expectancy.

However, the team from UEA aren’t the only researchers trying to unlock the value of big data to healthcare.

Big Data Partnership are currently involved in a project that aims to use big data analysis to reduce complications associated with type 2 diabetes.

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You can now explore the International Space Station with Google Street View

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Astronauts have been working and living on the ISS – a structure made up of 15 connected modules that floats 250 miles above Earth – for the past 16 years.

Now with Street View regular citizens can explore the station, and go everywhere from the sleeping quarters to where the space suits are kept. This is the first time Street View has ventured beyond planet Earth, and for the benefit of viewers the Street View feature also comes annotated, with handy little dots you can click on to explain what everything does, which is another first.

“In the six months that I spent on the International Space Station, it was difficult to find the words or take a picture that accurately describes the feeling of being in space,” said European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet in a blog post.

“Working with Google on my latest mission, I captured Street View imagery to show what the ISS looks like from the inside, and share what it’s like to look down on Earth from outer space.”

In his blog post, Pesquet goes on to describe how because of the constraints associated with living and working in space, it wasn’t possible to collect Street View using Google’s usual methods.

Instead, the Street View team worked with NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to design a gravity-free method of collecting the imagery using DSLR cameras and equipment already on the ISS.

Still photos were captured in space that were sent down to Earth where they were stitched together to create panoramic 360 degree imagery of the ISS.

Images courtesy of Google

“There are a lot of obstacles up there, and we had limited time to capture the imagery,” recalled Pesquet.

“Oh, and there’s that whole zero gravity thing.”

Pesquet ended his blog post by revealing the inspiration behind the Street View and ISS collaboration.

“Looking at Earth from above made me think about my own world a little differently, and I hope that the ISS on Street View changes your view of the world too.” said Pesquet.