Researchers have developed a new mobile phone application known as FluPhone to track the spread of infectious diseases like flu.
Volunteers' phones fitted with the app 'talk' to each other, recording how many people each 'infected subject' meets during an imaginary epidemic, reports the BBC.
AdvertisementThe FluPhone app uses Bluetooth technology to anonymously record interaction between volunteers involved in the study.
When mobile phones come into close proximity, that fact is recorded and data is sent automatically to the research team.
Prof Jon Crowcroft and Dr Eiko Yoneki, co-principal investigators of the study, said they believed the collected data could be used to simulate social interaction during a real epidemic or pandemic.
The FluPhone app was, he explained, a more reliable way to record contact between 'infectious subjects'.
"Provided we have people's permission, we can upload the data, and medical researchers can see who met whom within the set of volunteers, without there being any missing encounters.
"That's very important because meeting a lot of people may be the principal way diseases are spread.
"Armed with that sort of information, medics could then direct advice towards those people and perhaps slow down the spread of an epidemic," he added.
An upgraded version of the FluPhone app has now been released that can transmit "fake pathogens" to volunteers' phones.