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Combatting COVID-19 through Contact Tracing and AI Prediction

By Shrikant Srivastava
March 30, 2020 6. min read
Last update on: April 28, 2020

At the time of writing this article, the coronavirus cases have crossed the 600,000 mark with the death toll continuously rising on an everyday basis. 

Among the uncertainties around its origin story in Wuhan, the other, more fearful fact about Coronavirus is that it is extremely difficult to identify who has caught the virus. There is little to zero surety that someone has Corona till at least 14 to 20 days. And by this time, the carrier would have spread it to several other people, who in turn would spread it to hundreds other. 

The only solution according to the millions of research papers which have been published since December 2019 is to break the chain. Now, although many governments are looking at measures like lockdown and social distancing, the actual effectiveness that can be drawn can by tracing contacts made by the carrier.  

In this article, we are going to look into how technology, powered by Bluetooth for contact tracing, can be used to beat this pandemic. We are going to deep dive into contact tracing mobile apps for COVID-19

But before we get to the part where we look into the technicalities of contact tracing application development and the ways to make the application let us first look into what a coronavirus tracing application is and what is the need of having one. 

What Are Coronavirus Contact Tracing Apps?

In its simplest form, the contact tracing mobile apps for COVID-19, communicates with users (people who installed the same app) via Bluetooth and stores their data locally (Device ID, other Device ID, and Timing).

When someone tests positive for COVID-19 and is marked in the system, the system allows the government to trace all the users to whom this carrier has made contact by time stamps. A record of their geographical movements are shared with the healthcare officials. Additionally, other phone owners who came close to the infected person’s phone get notification of their infection risk and are then advised to self-isolate. 

This is only one of the types of contact tracing smartphone apps that the tech domain is presently looking into. The use cases are multiple and can be expanded across several other pandemics or mass-scale risks. The intent and benefits of contact tracing apps, however, in all of them is the exact same – to notify people of areas and individuals which are most likely to be affected by the virus. And in this way, play a part in breaking the chain of coronavirus spreading. This is the number one reason why organizations from across the globe are looking for a contact tracing app to slow coronavirus.  

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What Does Record-Keeping Looks Like

COVID-19 patient contacted People map

The image above depicts how we network. It is practically impossible to gauge whom we have come into contact with. The contact tracing mobile apps for COVID-19, simply by being in your pocket, can track the users in your proximity and notify you in case you are around someone with a high risk profile. Additionally, it can help in back tracing the user who might be in the highest risk profile and identify if they need immediate help. 

covid 19 patient contact tracing table

How Does Contact Tracing Apps Help People Know They are COVID-19 Positive at a Time When There is Lack of Testing Kits? 

How Contact Tracing Works? The application develops a risk score for every user. One that is derived using parameters such as:

A. Self-Assessment:

The app for COVID-19 contact tracing generally makes use of AI to offer a quick assessment test, based on the symptoms that have been recorded by the coronavirus patients across the globe. On the basis of the test, the algorithms identify users’ risk levels. 

B. Background Assessment:

Through the help of AI and geo-fencing, the system traces users behaviour, especially on the front of if users are:

  • Participating in isolation or not 
  • Maintaining social distancing 
  • Have been quarantined in their home for 14 days
  • The transport mode they are using 
  • The COVID-19 prone area they visited 
  • Are they a frequent traveler
  •  How many coronavirus risk-prone people they have been in contact with. 

Features That Make Up For an Efficient COVID-19 Tracing App 

The feature set of well-strategized solutions like contact tracing, should majorly answer to three separate stakeholders. The stakeholders around whom the entire process of developing a digital contact tracing app revolves

Users side of the application

1. Profile 

The users must enter their personal information in the profile, which includes their basic details like name, age, etc. along with their home and work addresses.

2. Vehicle Management

In this section, users put in their vehicle information – the make, model, registration number, and year of purchase, etc.

3. COVID Assessment and Self marking

Under this part, users will be given a questionnaire assessment, where users will have to answer questions that would help recognize the risk score – one of the biggest benefits of contact tracing apps. The questions, aligning with the coronavirus symptoms is generally around body temperature, symptoms experienced, etc.

4. Background Assessment

The most important functionality of the contact tracing smartphone app is that they are designed to run in the background. The metrics here are mainly on the front of assessing self isolation, social distancing, mode of transport, and the average contact established. 

  • Contact tracing – the app will keep tracing the users and make a trip diary for the users. In order to achieve this, the app makes use of a bluetooth for converting the device into a beacon. 
  • The app tracks if the users made any contact with someone who is at high coronavirus risk. 
  • The app also tracks the users to check if they are maintaining the social distances. 
  • Application can also track the travel history of the users and the stops they made – if the location falls under the geofence targeted by the admin, the profile will get notified, automatically.

5. Contact Tracing

The app makes use of bluetooth for converting the device in beacons and toggle between broadcaster and receiver to start logging the contact locally. The app also takes in the bluetooth permission to toggle the device in  beacon broadcaster and receiver in the threshold timing. The receiver who gets the data stores it locally along with information related to Device ID, Timing, and other Device IDs.

Ultimately, it is the beacon technology that plays an important role in the development of digital contact tracing app to combat spread of COVID-19.

6.  Trip Diary

Since the app keeps the log of all the information, it creates a trip diary for the users to highlight the areas they have visited. 

7.  Route Planner

The users will be able to create their own route planner by entering into their start location, stops, and the end location, in addition to details like the mode of transport. The routes, eventually would help all the app users know the high prone areas – an information coming in from genuine sources. 

8.  Multilingual Ability

Localization is not just one of the most powerful marketing tools but also one that proves to be extremely helpful when it comes to making a pandemic fighting application useful. 

City admin web panel

1. User Management

The city admin will have the information around users’ risk score, route planner, trip history, COVID-19 assessment, the ability to search for a user, etc. 

2. Transport Option Management

Through the option, the city admin will be able to view all the available transport options, and manage the route management – define the route by the start and end locations, the schedules, stoppage details, closed routes, and COVID-19 prone routes.

3. Gero-fencing Management

The admin is able to view and create a safe area or COVID-19 prone area with the help of geo-fencing. The system also allows them to receive alerts for new areas that need immediate attention. 

Admin web panel 

1. Dashboard

Through the dashboard, the admin is able to view the stats around users count, city admin count, the COVID-19 prone areas, etc. 

2. Users Management

Like the city admin, the app admin will also have the ability to view users details, the COVID-19 assessments, trip diaries, etc. 

3. City Admin Management

The app gives them the feature to view the city admins on the platform, along with the ability to view their details.

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How Can Technology Help in Making the COVID-19 Tracing Apps More Efficient

When we compare coronavirus to all the other pandemics that have happened before, the one clear advantage that we have, amidst the uncertainties, is the presence of disruptive technologies to make the solution more real-time, scalable, and efficient. Technologies that a sound contact tracing medical mobile app development uses to deliver a real-time, scalable solution.

In the present time, we see three technologies carrying the most effect on curbing the rise of coronavirus. Here is the list of technology behind contact tracing apps. 

1. Beacon technology

In case of contact tracing, it makes it extremely difficult to track where the users have been – the route they followed, vehicle they took, etc. The solution of this lies in the usage of a BLE Beacon technology that converts your devices into Beacon – one that gives out signals that make geo-fencing of COVID-19 prone and safe areas possible. 

2. Artificial Intelligence

Ever since the first news of outbreak, there has been several data floating in from all across the world about Coronavirus. There are multiple ways these data points can be entered into the intelligent systems which focus on churning out insights and action items that can curb the virus from spreading. Ways that are a playground for the businesses looking to revolutionize healthcare with AI

  • Detecting the next outbreak 
  • Speed up drug discovery
  • Drones and Robots helping the medical staff
  • Chatbots sharing genuine information about the symptoms and its outbreak. 

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3. Blockchain

It is impossible for any country to be fully prepared for a sudden pandemic like what coronavirus is. But with Blockchain technology at hand, businesses are finding several use cases to control the pandemic. Here’s how Blockchain can be the answer to fighting the coronavirus pandemic

  • Tracking the origin of donation
  • Making the insurance claim process transparent
  • Tracking of medical material supply chain through smart contract 
  • Low transaction, secure cross-border payments

FAQs About the Development of Contact Tracing Mobile Apps for COVID-19 

Q.  How to Develop a COVID-19 Contact Tracing Application

The process of developing a digital contact tracing app calls for a complete understanding of the intent and working of the contact tracing smartphone app. Next, would be to know the feature set that the application comes with along with the tech stack. Let us help you with the development process. 

Q.  Why Contact Tracing is Important in the Battle Against COVID-19?

There are a number of reasons why people are using digital contact tracing app to combat spread of COVID-19. These applications are not just designed to give users a risk score on the basis of AI powered assessments but to notify them how prone or safe the area they are visiting is. With the help of this, the probability of the chain breaking increases by manifold.

Shrikant Srivastava
Shrikant Srivastava
VP Technology
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