IBM’s ‘Weather Map’ Software May Track Disease Paths

IBM is contributing a processing engine to the open source and public health communities that will make it easier to track the transmission of diseases around the world.

The software, Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler (STEM), is available for use through the Eclipse Open Healthcare Framework Project, which is hosted at the Eclipse Foundation.

STEM, which represents nearly three years of global research including contributions from scientists from IBM’s Almaden, Haifa and Watson labs, can quickly create an epidemiological model for how an infectious disease, such as bird flu, is likely to geographically spread over time based on certain parameters such as population, roadmaps, airport locations, travel patterns and bird migratory routes around the world.

It can run on any operating system.

“By making STEM available on open source we are hoping to form a community that can work together to build models and respond to emerging epidemics,” James Kaufman, manager of healthcare information infrastructure at IBM, told LinuxInsider.

Tracking Around the World

International collaboration will be essential to developing the models. A basic epidemiological model framework will be provided to public health agencies and software developers, who can customize and configure the models based on their specific geographic, health and relevant macroeconomic issues.

“STEM allows public health officials to model the spread of a disease much like modeling a storm or hurricane — it’s like a health weather map,” said Joseph Jasinski, IBM program director. “Until now, it wasn’t possible to play out health crisis scenarios on a global scale. STEM gives us the power to do that.”

Plug-In Contributions

Users will be able to share the customized epidemiological models they create as well as the plug-ins they build using Eclipse.

These plug-ins would be developed for different scenarios, Kaufman said. For instance, if a worldwide outbreak of food poisoning due to contaminated food shipments were to occur, a plug-in that tracked this against the flow of goods and services could be developed and shared.

“Once you have the community contributing the necessary data to gain this understanding, you can do studies on just about any possible disease vector,” he said.

STEM, which is one of the technologies being used in the Global Pandemic Initiative, can also query clinics, hospitals, lab systems and other information sources for anonymized data by disease.

To download STEM, visit

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