IBM's Weather Company Launches Cold and Flu App Tracker

IBM announced that its The Weather Company business unit has created a cold and flu detection application.

IBM big data

The Weather Company, an IBM business, announced the availability of a new Cold and Flu Tracker that uses cognitive computing technology to provide localized cold and flu activity to consumers.

The new Cold and Flu Tracker is sponsored GSK Consumer Healthcare's (GSK) Theraflu brand and is available on, and The Weather Channel app. The tracker uses real-time sentiment data to deliver updates on cold and flu activity at a hyperlocal level, IBM said.

Prior to the advent of the new tracker, users were not made aware of cold and flu activity in their state until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its weekly flu report. However, with this tool, users will know in real time when cold and flu activity is spiking in their area, and can take action to help protect themselves, IBM said.

Moreover, The Weather Company is working with GSK Consumer Healthcare to launch its new Theraflu ExpressMax Caplets and market them based on social sentiment data to keep consumers informed of sickness trends in their areas. The Weather Company is working with Sickweather to provide the real-time social media sentiment to help highlight the areas where cold and flu outbreaks have occurred locally.

"Our goal at Weather is to create experiences that engage, educate, and delight our fans, and we know when we do that, marketers benefit too," said Jeremy Steinberg, global head of sales at The Weather Company, in a statement. "Our new Cold and Flu Tracker will help our fans get ahead of flu activity as much as possible and, by doing that, we know we're adding tremendous value to their experience with us. Leveraging Sickweather and Watson Ads helps us further connect the dots for our users and marketers in order to keep people informed—in this case, about illness rather than weather conditions."

On The Weather Channel app, users can access localized real-time cold and flu activity information through the health module, which will include a dial for current local "Cold & Flu" conditions, a "heat map" of hyperlocal cold and flu activity, as well as current and historical CDC reports, Steinberg said.

Moreover, on and, visitors will have access to the "heat map," an interactive map with national and hyperlocal cold and flu activity based on sentiment data to show where cold and flu conversations are happening across the country, as well as current and historical CDC reports, local weather forecast information, and relevant cold and flu seasonal content, Steinberg noted.

Theresa Agnew, chief marketing officer at GSK Consumer Healthcare, said the Cold and Flu Tracker gives consumers the opportunity to get ahead and be prepared for the flu season as much as possible.

"The combination of social sentiment and cognitive learning will not only inform and advise consumers, but it will provide fantastic insights for the marketing team as well in terms of knowing when to merchandise and market the Theraflu brand in different areas throughout the country," Agnew said.

Meanwhile, Graham Dodge, CEO of Sickweather, said he believes social media is often the first place cold and flu outbreaks become evident, and "it's the only place where we can track them in real time," he proclaimed.

"Working with The Weather Company to surface these outbreak areas to their wider audience could have huge positive implications," Dodge said. "The more people with access to this information, the more people there will be proactively making healthier choices to prevent themselves and others around them from getting sick and therefore missing work or school, not to mention helping the elderly and medically fragile populations avoid life-threatening illnesses."

The Weather Company said GSK's Theraflu brand also will take advantage of Watson Ads, a new capability in which consumers are able to interact with IBM Watson through advertising. Consumers will be able to interact with the Theraflu ad via voice or text and ask Watson questions like, "How long is the flu contagious?" Watson's machine learning and natural language capabilities will enable the ad to provide relevant responses.

Just about one year ago, IBM closed its acquisition of The Weather Company's B2B, mobile and cloud-based web properties including, Weather Underground, The Weather Company brand and WSI, its global business-to-business brand. IBM did not acquire The Weather Company's cable TV segment, but Big Blue will license weather forecast data and analytics to the cable unit under a long-term contract.

Following that acquisition, Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told eWEEK he thought it was natural for IBM to develop predictive services for industries that are especially sensitive to weather events, including transportation, power utilities, construction, emergency & disaster services, travel and more.

"Toss in their stated plans to leverage Weather Company data in the new Watson IoT solutions and services, and this deal could become extremely important to both IBM and its enterprise customers," King said.

Meanwhile, in August, IBM announced upgraded weather intelligence APIs on IBM Cloud. The Weather Company Data Service, which runs on Bluemix, equips developers to build predictive and intelligent weather analytics into apps that require weather data—such as helping to predict the weather's potential impact on consumer behavior and tracking price fluctuations in agricultural crops.