Coronavirus: IIT-Delhi students develop app to identify individuals coming in close contact with COVID-19 patients
Coronavirus or the COVID-19 infection is spreading like a wildfire across the world. While the epicentre of the disease was quick to identify, and people travelling from abroad are thoroughly checked, the initial symptoms take between two to 14 days to show up. During such times, it is difficult to track everyone who has come in close proximity with those who might be infected.
However, India’s premier engineering school the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) have always come up with solutions in times of crisis. The coronavirus pandemic was no different. A team of IIT-Delhi students have developed an application to help trace individuals who come in close contact with COVID-19 positive cases.
The team comprises of five students from IIT-Delhi -- Vikas Upadhyay (PhD student from the computer science department), Gulsan Jahagid, Pankaj Singh (undergrad students from the computer science department), Anchal Sharma, and Arshad Nasser (PhD students, design department).
The five students got together a week back after the number of COVID-19 positive cases rose significantly in the country.
The team has developed a mobile application that can identify people who have been near, that is, within two metres of an infected person. The application uses Bluetooth technology and enables tracking of the population who have been in close contact with any infected coronavirus positive cases.
According to the team, the application provides precise, secure, and reliable tracking techniques. Additionally, it will help in spreading self-awareness among patients and encourage more to get tested for the infection. The application is a voluntarily effort of the students involved. It is an open-source project and is not related to, or supported by any mainstream activity of IIT Delhi's Assistech Lab or Government of India.
According to Vikas, who leads the team, they have already piloted the application with 50 users from their friends and families. Currently available at http://www.cse.iitd.ernet.in/~vikas/covid-19/, the team is planning to release an Android version of the application by Friday evening, March 27.
“We are looking forward to collaborating with government bodies and agencies to work with us and deploy the application as soon as possible,” Vikas told YourStory. “We have not spent any money in developing the application, but if the government wants, they would require to host in a separate server, as the scale of usage will increase,” he added.
How does it work?
The application has three major verticals:
- Spreading awareness: It provides live verified statistics through credible sources like that provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
- Detection: Using Bluetooth, the application will backtrack and alert all the linked people – individuals who have been in close vicinity of positive coronavirus cases in the past days. The date and region of interaction within the Bluetooth radius are also provided through the application.
- If and when an individual does come in close contact with a COVID-19 positive patient, the app will connect the user with the nearest healthcare facility. Additionally, it will provide guidelines for self-quarantine and supportive care guidelines.
The application requires Bluetooth permission and does not involve a GPS tracking or sharing of personal data and information. Once the users complete the one-time registration using their name, phone number, and age, the app records the encrypted information of individuals interacting with each other or within two metres of distance. This information is then uploaded to a secured server.
On downloading the app, a user will get the following updates:
1. Statistics of his social distancing
2. Regular updates and notifications about COVID-19
3. Statistics of how many people (known and unknown) the user was in close contact with
4. In case of any contact with a suspected or confirmed case, a preventive advisory from healthcare service providers
5. Self-quarantining guidelines to be followed and action to be taken, in case of a potential suspect
6. Alarm about maintaining social distancing
Healthcare providers or state governments downloading the app will get the following benefits:
1. Easy and hassle-free backtracking of COVID-19 positive individuals
2. Rapid reach and alarming to all suspected and infected population to take preventive measures
3. Monitoring the global social distancing protocols and issues advisory
4. East classification and reaching out to the vulnerable part of the society to prevent any possible damage
“We are ready to work with the government and are open to taking their suggestions on developing or implementing something new on the application. It should quickly go to the field so that people can start using it,” Vikas said.
(Edited by Suman Singh)