In the battle towards COVID-19, researchers at Colorado State University have developed a brand new, non-invasive technique to determine areas at best threat for spreading the illness.
Led by Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Edwin Chong, the crew is drawing on knowledge from present mobile wi-fi networks to pinpoint potential hotspots for elevated viral transmission.
Their approach, detailed in a paper revealed this month within the IEEE Open Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology, may assist areas handle dangers to keep away from situations just like the current outbreak in New York City, the place the virus inflicted devastation on some of the densely populated areas within the nation.
Coronavirus and crowds
Knowing that COVID-19 is definitely unfold by people in shut proximity, Chong and his crew developed a technique that helps them determine essentially the most crowded areas with hustle and bustle, resembling a metropolis middle, the place asymptomatic carriers have the next likelihood of coming into shut contact with massive numbers of wholesome individuals.
Because virtually everybody carries a cellular phone these days, they goal to grasp how cellular gadget customers transfer and collect over time in an space by leveraging what are referred to as handover and cell (re)choice protocols — the mobile community applied sciences that enable us to maneuver about freely with our cellular units with out dropping service. Using knowledge collected by way of these networks, Chong’s crew measures handover and cell (re)choice exercise, referred to as HO/CS charges, to calculate localized inhabitants density and mobility. Offering real-time updates, the info enable them to flag at-risk areas for additional monitoring. Their technique builds on the premise that the upper the HO/CS charges, which suggests increased density and mobility, the upper the chance of spreading infectious ailments.
“Our findings could help risk managers with planning and mitigation,” mentioned Chong, a number one researcher in mobile wi-fi networks who has experience in threat administration. “It might prompt them to cordon off a busy plaza, for example, or implement stricter social distancing measures to slow the spread of the virus.”
Chong mentioned their strategy may be used to estimate the proportion of individuals staying house to find out whether or not communities are following really useful public well being insurance policies.
Protecting safety and privateness
While Chong refers to cellular units as “always-on human trackers,” he’s delicate to and anxious with privateness and safety points. Unlike contact tracing functions which can be typically tough to deploy and require widespread adoption, his strategy protects the privateness and anonymity of people without having energetic participation from gadget customers.
“Our method overcomes the downsides of contact tracing apps,” Chong mentioned. “All we have to do is perform the measurements using anonymous data that is already being collected for other reasons. We are not tracking individuals.”
As the nation steps up efforts to plan for future outbreaks, Chong mentioned their approach has functions past COVID-19. “It can help with other epidemiological risks, such as the flu. Regardless of the disease, it’s very important to have tools that help risk managers focus and prioritize to protect our citizens,” he mentioned.