Containment of Outbreaks of Virulent Infectious Diseases (COVID)
COVID is world’s first wearable device to shield humanity from any potential existential threat from deadly pathogens.
Vision: Our vision is to eventually become an anonymous, autonomous health passport to seamlessly authorize safe human mobility across borders.
The Covid-19 pandemic is a wakeup call. Imagine how apocalyptic the situation will be if a pathogen like Ebola with manifold higher death rate ( as high as 88%) and similar infectivity struck. There are other known pathogens with infectivity much higher than Covid-19. The existential threat to mankind from a new nano-sized enemy lurking somewhere is real. Introducing a wearable device tech to secure humanity from any impending apocalypse.
With the convergence of risk factors, amplification and quick dissemination of existing or emerging pandemic prone pathogens, such as Covid-19, pose a greater threat to mankind. EU funded the PANDEM (Pandemic Risk & Emergency Management) project in order to getting EU ready for the next pandemic. PANDEM, in its final report concluded that we are now, more than ever, at risk of a global event that could potentially cost human lives. The Covid-19 pandemic that we are experiencing now is a lot more serious than PANDEM project’s 2017 prediction. The pathogen that originated in China, within weeks made Europe the epicenter of history’s worst catastrophe, the likes of which mankind has never witnessed before.
PANDEM project developed a decision support tool — PandemCap for epidemic management, identifying three primary areas of research including,
“Situational Awareness and Decision Support State of the art surveillance, detection and prediction tools that support effective decision-making.”
We believe detection & prediction tools are at the heart of any decision-making on which the other two areas of “governance” and “workforce capacity & operational preparedness” depend.
Extending the work of PANDEM we bring some of its recommendations to fruition with COVID (Containment Of Outbreaks Of Virulent Infectious Diseases), a wearable surveillance tool that will make decision making seamless and autonomous for the convenience of governance and operational preparedness. AI & Blockchain powered COVID is so versatile that it not only enables states to autonomously and anonymously monitor and detect earliest signs of an outbreak, or even implement contact tracing during outbreak without compromising citizens’ privacy, but it’s backend database structure solves the biggest problem that EHR (Electronic Health Records) industry is facing — Data Silos. A Forbes report calls data silos as “healthcare’s silent shame.” Overcoming health data silos is proven to lead to cost savings. In US alone the estimated value of such savings range may be $300 billion annually.
The human mobility concept of worldwide passport standard, the existence of which in our lifestyle is sealed for eternity, was created in the aftermath of World War-I and Spanish flu pandemic, a century ago. The aftermath of Covid-19 pandemic might create a new mobility standard for saving the world from the wrath of pathogens like Covid-19. COVID’s vision is to become that standard.
An individual’s health data has serious privacy consequences, especially when GDPR is in force in Europe. Club citizens’ health data with their real time location and we trample in a very dangerous territory. On the other hand, events like the Covid-19 pandemic, if not contained, pose serious existential risk to mankind. So there are legitimate interests on both sides. However, unlike the WWW-I aftermath, Covid-19 aftermath has technology on our side.
COVID is an evolutionary offspring of a patent-pending women’s safety device — Xeno- invented in 2017–18 as a semi-finalist in a million-dollar Xprize global challenge. Anonymizing and yet tracing the device user’s relative location is the key feature that COVID is exploiting to autonomously screen user’s R0 status for any potential outbreak or impending epidemic. Single FL7-compliant API for universal EHR interoperability versus thousands of APIs in 1,000+ EHRs of legacy systems, anonymous contact tracing epidemiology tool, decentralized database and blockchain smart contracts for security and immutability of shared health records make COVID not only a definer of the post Covid mobility standard globally, but a game changer in managing interoperability of electronic health records.
 A. Yañez, J. Duggan, C. Hayes, M. Jilani and M. Connolly, “PandemCap: Decision support tool for epidemic management,” 2017 IEEE Workshop on Visual Analytics in Healthcare (VAHC), Phoenix, AZ, 2017, pp. 24–30.
1. Throughout the course of history, as humanity spread across the world, infectious diseases have been constant companion. Disease outbreaks have ravaged humanity, sometimes changing the course of history and, at times, signaling the end of entire civilizations. During the previous 7 centuries, 421.4 million human lives were lost (and counting). The pandemics have consistently happened with regular intervals, and despite tremendous technological advances we still cannot prevent them. On the contrary our technology-powered lifestyle has accelerated the speed with which pathogens spread.
Even in the modern era, outbreaks, epidemics or pandemics are nearly constant. With each outbreak, epidemic or pandemic, researchers, public health experts and international organizations gain a better understanding of the complexity and dynamics of disease causing pathogens. With the improvement of surveillance and reporting systems, characteristics of pathogens can be documented more effectively than was possible a few decades ago. Yet modern healthcare practices prioritize non-communicable diseases over the communicable diseases, without realizing that the real existential threat can come from obscure infectious diseases. It seems we didn’t learn our lessons from history! Can we be excused for letting history repeat itself?
The latest existential threat coming from Covid-19 pandemic is frightening the world in a way that no catastrophe in history has ever done before. The Covid-19 fallout is impacting every aspect of our lives — social, economic, and financial. It is tearing apart the sheer fabric of life itself, sparing no one in the process. Governments around the world are trying to come to terms with this crisis perpetuated by this nano-sized enemy, throwing all their technological might to stop its onslaught. The tragedy is we have the technology to stop it, if the world only paid a little more attention to the serious pandemic possibilities of infectious diseases.
“We are now, more than ever, at risk of a global event that could potentially cost human lives” — predicted the EU funded PANDEM(Pandemic Risk & Emergency Management) project about 3 years ago, stressing the need to [g]etting EU ready for the next pandemic.
What we are witnessing today is a lot more serious than PANDEM predictions.
The primary aim of this project is to develop, test and introduce into the market a versatile wearable device that can eventually become a standard possession for every citizen while interfacing with peers, caregivers, administrators, regulators, service providers for any lifestyle needs that includes but not limited to healthcare needs, mobility needs, professional needs, vocational needs, social needs, so on and so forth, ensuring citizen’s privacy and confidentiality all along the path.
The immediate and urgent unmet need for COVID 1.0 is implementing containment measures for controlling Covid-19 or any such potential pandemic / epidemic, assisting in diagnosing an evolving outbreak, and preventing the spread of the pathogen by means of an anonymous surveillance that facilitates contact tracing, contact quarantine, social distancing, mobility restrictions, etc., while retaining citizen’s privacy.
We are building COVID 1.0 based on women’s wearable safety device — XENO, we built in 2017–18 for a global challenge organized by the Xprize foundation. The original XENO device hardware was production ready at TRL-8. Since we are using the same hardware with some changes to the backend and user interface we are downgrading our device to TRL-6. Accordingly, following objectives will take us to a market ready TRL-8 COVID 1.0 device:
The EU Response To Covid-19 Pandemic
The virus has spread quickly and knows no political boundaries. To bring it under control, Governments are acting at a speed previously unknown. European Commission promptly sanctioned €55 million for two Horizon 2020 calls for Covid-19 in February / March. EC also responded to the regional scramble for apps and data to help tackle the crisis by calling for a common EU approach to boost the effectiveness of digital interventions and ensure key rights and freedoms are respected. It also warned that current efforts by governments across the EU to combat the virus are being hampered by the fragmentation of approaches. It wants to ensure Member States’ individual efforts to use data and tech tools to combat COVID-19 are aligned and can interoperate across borders — and therefore be more effective, given the virus does not respect national borders. At the same time its recommendation puts a strong focus on the need to ensure that fundamental EU rights do not get overridden in the rush to mitigate the spread of the virus. Accordingly, addressing privacy concerns, it is offering official guidance for “modelling and predicting the evolution of the virus through anonymised and aggregated mobile location data”. Member states are required to report actions taken by 31 May, making these accessible for peer review by fellow nations and the EC, with a review on progress to take place in June.
In sync with EC response is a coalition of EU scientists and technologists that’s developing a “privacy-preserving” standard for Bluetooth-based proximity tracking, as a proPan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT) project.
Beyond State-of-the-art: Not Just Contact Tracing, But An Impending Epidemic Bellwether
The goal of an early warning system for any disease outbreak or epidemic would be to provide public health officials and the general public with as much advance notice as possible about the likelihood of an outbreak in a particular location. Such an early warning widens the range of feasible response options. The inherent dilemma of an early warning system, however, is that more lead-time usually means less predictive certainty. COVID’s Machine Learning (ML) engine eliminates such dilemma and makes the system autonomous and seamless.
ML engine's input matrix comprises of vast amount of data that is monitored and analyzed in real time are sourced from climate forecasts, environmental observations and even sentinel animals (animals that are placed in a given environment and then monitored to find out if an infectious disease or other harmful agent is present in that environment) besides keeping a watch on early cases and the potential of an outbreak in a community. A variety of tools/methods can be used to assess the risks posed to a community by climate and ecological changes, morbidity patterns, and to evaluate strategies for responding to those risks.
The ML engine's output matrix comprises of a battery of response options depending on the certainty of the progression of morbid events.
To ensure privacy, anonymity and security of the user, COVID takes an IoT approach to the problem, and designs a small wearable device that’s dissociated with user mobile device but still works in tandem with the mobile device. This ensures that all the info on the mobile device, which is associated with user’s mobile ID remains confidential. The device deploys Blue Tooth 5.0 (BLE5) hardware and mesh networking for always on connectivity with zero maintenance cost and long battery life. It also provides real time voice connectivity with the service provider for emergencies. User’s ID on blockchain ensures privacy and anonymity on one hand and immutability of data transactions recorded between user and service provider, on the other. Such data transactions include authorization to share user data with third party providers. The blockchain also incentivizes the participants in the ecosystem with a tokenization scheme that runs the blockchain’s consensus engine. This is discussed in more detail in subsequent section.
In addition to the blockchain ledger technology for recording transaction, the backend of the COVID device is powered by a decentralized database that ensures privacy and interoperability by design.
Although the interoperability feature of COVID will be further developed only in COVID 2.0 (EHR phase) product, and not in this phase of COVID 1.0, the backend database architecture is designed for customizability and scalability of COVID 2.0. The FL7-compliant EHR interoperability is a lot more complex than the basic semantic interoperability. Hence, while basic device interoperability will be enabled in COVID 1.0, EHR interoperability will be implemented only in COVID 2.0 phase of the project.
The domination of technological paradigms is due not only to technological forces but also to sociopolitical organizational forces. This calls for a stronger focus on the socioeconomic & behavioral aspects of the innovation process, particularly if the tech is disrupting the status quo, implying that simultaneous research on the formation, maintenance, and change of the sociopolitical forces underlying the new approach. A deeper insight into these processes improves influencing the direction & speed of technology. This proposal, therefore, is not just about building a new technology that goes beyond state-of-the-art, but also balancing it with its socioeconomic behavioral aspects that are much influenced by sociopolitical forces that determine its acceptance by the masses. COVID development therefore has a deep interdisciplinary nature bridging different domains of advanced product development involving expertise from diverse disciplines such as public health, data science, privacy, security, IoT, business innovation and legal domain.
The human mobility concept of worldwide passport standard, was created in the aftermath of World War-I and Spanish flu pandemic, a century ago. Since then passport has become an essential document for cross-board mobility. The aftermath of Covid-19 pandemic might create a new mobility standard for saving the world from the wrath of pathogens like Covid-19. EPIDEM’s vision is to become that standard.
Most radically new concepts in science & technology face significant uncertainties in terms of cultural and sociopolitical acceptability in addition to the inherent risk involved with technology itself. Our long-term vision and EPIDEM R&D strategy is built around the real world uncertainties of such an ambitious undertaking. EPIDEM objectives are realistic & conducive to the strategy our research approach adopts for long-term sustainability against the brunt of risks & commercial plausibility.