The industry ministry has begun a project to support the development of artificial intelligence tools that help diabetics improve their diet and daily habits, to prevent their condition from worsening, sources have said.

The ministry hopes to collect data from some 2,000 diabetics whose condition is very bad by year-end through a clinical trial in cooperation with the Japan Diabetes Society.

The data, which will include weight and the numbers of steps taken, will serve as high-quality training data for AI development. Training data is the initial set of information used by AI computer systems to learn how to draw accurate conclusions on a topic.

A project linking clinical research with data collected from so many diabetics is unprecedented anywhere in the world, according to sources, which include a ministry executive.

Participants in the trial will provide the necessary data through a smartphone app.

In Japan, local municipalities or prefectural governments often collect citizens’ health data through health awareness programs.

But because such programs tend to attract healthy people, it is not easy to collect data from those who need to improve their daily habits such as patients with relatively mild cases of diabetes, the sources said.

Participants for the clinical trial were selected based on their HbA1c readings, which are a measure of average blood sugar levels.

The ministry will provide the information collected to companies and research institutes so that they can use it as training data to develop AI tools.

It hopes the measure will also help promote the development of the health care industry, the sources said.

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