Microsoft’s Project Premonition is an initiative to begin fighting emerging infectious diseases before they even get a foot in the door. By utilizing drones and devices to collect early pathogens, researchers can get a head start on battling epidemics such as Zika, Ebola, Chikungunya, and MERS.
With breaking news about the Zika cases in Florida, Microsoft leaped into action. Harris County, TX is being armored up with mosquito traps that emit carbon dioxide to attract their prey. With Project Premonition inbound, the foot-tall canister traps can detect the vibration of mosquito wings and snap closed. There is a total of 64 compartments on each one.
Once the samples are dropped off with researchers, they can begin testing and analyzing the mosquitos. The pathogens of the Zika virus were originally unknown compared to other infectious diseases. Microsoft Research is continuing to develop algorithms that better identified the potential threats through analyzing the genetic material directly. Through gene sequencing, the data can show more about the species, the animals they have bitten, and what sort of pathogens they have encountered. More algorithms are being developed as more and more data is changed and altered in the pathogens.
The future of Project Premonition doesn’t stop there. Microsoft intends to begin releasing drones into the environment in efforts to scan the area and send back data. Researchers would be able to log when and where mosquitoes are most active. This would be extremely useful to note ideal locations to place traps and keep them at a safe distance as the device is deployed. CNN writes that with improved technologies, scientists hope the traps will eventually be able to identify the type of mosquito in advance. With over 3,600 types of mosquitoes, diseases are only carried by a handful.
Scientists are calling the Project Premonition a game changer, praising the effectiveness of the technology. Check out the Today Show coverage of Project Premonition in Harris County below.