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Study: Google Flu Trend faulty

BY Michael Johnsen

HOUSTON — As part of research funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, a recent study found that Google Flu Trend may not be all it’s cracked up to be. The study, published in the journal Science, also suggested that aggregated big data tools may have their faults.

"Google Flu Trend is an amazing piece of engineering and a very useful tool, but it also illustrates where ‘big data’ analysis can go wrong," said Ryan Kennedy, University of Houston political science professor. He and co-researchers David Lazer (Northeastern University/Harvard University), Alex Vespignani (Northeastern University) and Gary King (Harvard University) detailed new research about the problematic use of big data from such aggregators as Google.

Even with modifications to the GFT over many years, the tool that set out to improve response to flu outbreaks has overestimated peak flu cases in the United States over the past two years, the researchers noted. 

"Many sources of ‘big data’ come from private companies, who, just like Google, are constantly changing their service in accordance with their business model," Kennedy said. "We need a better understanding of how this affects the data they produce; otherwise we run the risk of drawing incorrect conclusions and adopting improper policies."

GFT overestimated the prevalence of flu in the 2012-2013 season, as well as the actual levels of flu in 2011-2012, by more than 50%, according to the research. Additionally, from August 2011 to September 2013, GFT over-predicted the prevalence of flu in 100 out of 108 weeks.

The team also questioned data collections from such platforms as Twitter and Facebook (like polling trends and market popularity), as campaigns and companies can manipulate these platforms to ensure their products are trending.

Still, the article contends there is room for data from the Googles and Twitters of the Internet to combine with more traditional methodologies, in the name of creating a deeper and more accurate understanding of human behavior.

"Our analysis of Google Flu demonstrates that the best results come from combining information and techniques from both sources," Kennedy said. "Instead of talking about a ‘big data revolution,’ we should be discussing an ‘all data revolution,’ where new technologies and techniques allow us to do more and better analysis of all kinds." 

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Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf announces K-cup flavors

BY Ryan Chavis

LOS ANGELES — The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, a coffee and tea retailer, announced the introduction of four coffee varieties for the Keurig K-Cup Brewing System. The new offerings highlight some of the company’s most popular selections, as well as new blends that were created specifically for the Keurig system.

"Today we are excited to bring our signature premium coffee roast profile to Keurig customers," said John Dawson, president and CEO, the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. "Now millions of Keurig customers can enjoy the distinct coffee profile of the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf with the convenience of the Keurig platform. We believe these new additions will delight our current customers and introduce many others to our great products."

The four varieties include: Cafe 63, Costa Rica, Viennese Blend and Toasted Amaretto. They are available in 16-count boxes for $11.95. 

 

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Hain Celestial expands Garden of Eatin’ brand

BY Ryan Chavis

LAKE SUCCESS, N.Y. — The Hain Celestial Group, a supplier of organic and natural products, introduced Garden of Eatin’ Butternut Squash Corn Tortilla Chips. The gluten-free snack features a combination of butternut squash and organic yellow corn.

"Our introduction of Garden of Eatin’ Butternut Squash Corn Tortilla Chips represents another step in our goal of providing great-tasting tortilla chips made with organic corn to the market," said Jared Simon, director of marketing for snacks at Hain Celestial. "We’re excited to introduce this distinctive new flavor that balances sweet with savory and gives our consumers a fun, interesting alternative in the corn tortilla chip aisle."  

The Butternut Squash flavor joins Blue Corn Torilla Chips, Sweet Potato Corn Tortilla Chips and Black Bean Corn Tortilla Chips and other varieties in the product lineup.

 

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