Science and Technology

The Commercialization of COVID Apps Shows the Reusability of Good Quality Data

Datasets which are initially meant for one thing can often be just as good for something else.

Elliot Leavy

Businesses often change to fit the times, but there is perhaps no business that has changed so drastically as of late as a certain diet-tracking app turned covid tracker.

The app began its life as the centerpiece of a personalized nutrition start-up, Zoe, but, as the pandemic began to hit full throttle, one of Zoe’s founders Tim Spector, decided that it would not be too difficult to ask users questions about Covid symptoms at the same time.

And so, a Covid-tracking app was born. However, two years after its creation in May 2022, it announced in an email to users that its Covid tracking app would no longer be just a place for people to report their Covid symptoms. The Covid Symptom Tracker had metamorphosed once more, this time into the Zoe Health Study, which asks people to take 10 seconds a day to log their mental and physical health beyond Covid.

Speaking to Wired magazine, Spector states that he views the current version of the Zoe app as a giant citizen science project. Users can sign up to different studies, which involve answering questions through the app. Current studies include investigations into the gut microbiome, early signs of dementia, and the role of immune health in heart disease. Before the pandemic, recruiting hundreds of thousands of people for a study would be nearly impossible, but the Zoe app is now a huge potential resource for new research. “I’d love to see what happens when 100,000 people skip breakfast for two weeks,” says Spector.

Zoe is far from the only Covid app developer pivoting away from the pandemic. In Berlin, a contact-tracing app called Luca is reinventing itself as a payment system. Meanwhile, in northern Italy an app set up to track coronavirus cases now warns citizens about natural disasters.

With the most urgent phase of the pandemic now over, developers are looking for ways to squeeze more value out of the users who have downloaded their apps. As with any mass data gathering, there ethical questions are in abundance of course, but ultimately what these app-shifts show is the power in the reusability of data.

Data reusability holds promise for enterprises facing increasing market pressure to innovate. How can a data strategy stand up to this pressure? As seen with the success of Zoe, the key to a successful data reusability strategy is by building a reusable data foundation. This in essence allows enterprises to gain a head start in whatever new endeavor they approach – standing on the shoulder of the giants they create.

However, to reuse data, it is best to ensure that it is stored correctly. As we highlighted last year, there are a plethora of tools available for businesses dealing with big datasets.

Tools such as data lakes and data warehouses. Data lakes are essentially vast repositories of raw, unprocessed data which purpose is yet to be defined. Using data lakes, data scientists can freely explore and experiment with different data types of data sets. A data warehouse on the other hand is a database that not only stores data, but processes and organizes it to ensure analytical readiness. Using a process known as extract, transform and load (ETL), data warehouses collect raw data from various sources, “transforms” it into structured data and then finally, loads it into the Data Warehouse system. You can read more about both tools here.

In short, data reusability will lessen the response time to emerging opportunities and risks, allowing organizations to remain competitive in the digital economies of the future.

Source: The Commercialization of Covid Apps Shows the Reusability of Good Quality Data | AI, Data & Analytics Network (


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