Technology analysts refer to the elements of systems like this as “data silos”—each data set stored by itself, never touching the others. Over the past few decades, many industries have started breaking data out of their bunkers and using powerful computers to cross-index them, revealing previously unsuspected patterns. In health care, however, data isolation is still the norm.
IBM hopes to change this. Pioneering technology now enables the company’s systems to store and analyze streaming data in real time, a task that was previously too big for ordinary computers to handle. In a small field trial at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, IBM is using that technology to test a theory already suggested by some studies: that tiny changes in heart rate may indicate infections at least 12 hours before they would otherwise become apparent.