- AUTHOR Dhruv Shah
- PUBLISHED ON September 04, 2020
Smarter Contact Tracing for Securely Unlocking the World!
Every crisis sows the seeds of a new solution, a new approach to address the problem, and a slew of new technologies that are deployed to respond quickly in response to the challenges brought forth by the crisis. Yes, we are talking about the Covid 19 pandemic that took its toll on the entire world. We would have loved to talk about it in the past tense, but sadly that is not the reality. The speed and scale of the disease spread, the modus of spreading, the causes of spread, the overall mathematics and statistics unfolded in front of our eyes, so did our knowledge, and the response to contain the spread. The silver lining, if at all, for the learned mind is the advent of contact tracing methodologies that are automated, contact-less, efficient, scalable, privacy-sensitive, and verifiable. In short, the Smarter Contact Tracing Methodologies!
Why do we need Smarter Contact Tracing?
The Corona crisis taught a few terminologies to mankind for good: Containment, Isolation, Quarantine, and Contact Tracing being the most prominent. Although the medical and health professionals knew them through their education, they had to practise to the scale they would have never imagined. They had to get up and close to the patients falling prey to the virus in various capacities and activities like doing the patient examinations, studying the virus under the microscope, performing other lab tests, surveying the localities where the patient came from, and meeting the close relatives and other people who were in touch with the patient. It took time, efforts and at many times the lives of those health professionals in those efforts. The same applies to the government functionaries such as administrators, police department, civic services, and sanitation providers to name the most prominent ones. As they were going about their activities there were also some actors who were busy spreading false information about the spread, thereby creating an atmosphere of havoc. What we are missing is the Smart Contact Tracing that collects and disseminates information in a contact-less manner, informs the right people at the right time, provides verifiable data to back it, simulates the danger and severity for the stakeholders, and curtails the chances of misinformation and rumours.
What do we really expect from the Smarter Contact Tracing System?
If we were to list down the most important requirements from such systems, they would be:
- The privacy of patients should be protected, and personally identifiable information should never be available to unauthenticated users.
- The healthcare professionals need to have authenticated and easy access to the digital patient data. The data should get updated automatically.
- The information should be verifiable to curtail rumours while effectively simulated to represent the severity of danger.
- Citizens should be alerted upfront about new patients in locality, new containment zones in vicinity, and the places where they are planning to visit. They should be notified without any need to do specific settings or customizations to their mobile phones.
As we were working to develop a solution for contact tracing purposes, we based our approach primarily on addressing the requirements above. Our objective, approach and proposed solution are detailed out in the whitepaper: Effective Private Scalable Contact Tracing.
To quote the whitepaper,
Our objective is to ensure our system is as effective and efficient in contact tracing as any of the other solutions that are centrally driven. We attempt to eliminate false negatives with a mechanism that efficiently disseminates information about infection and contacts.
Additionally, our proposal also mitigates the risk of false positives from malicious actors in the system who aim to spread panic in the system posing to be infected when in reality they are not. We have attempted to achieve the above objective without compromising on the privacy of any stakeholder, namely, the citizenry, whether they are infected, potentially exposed or the community at large.
The guiding principles of privacy have been defined as privacy of individuals from other members of the community, privacy from a central authority like the government, health system or companies operating the system as well as privacy from snoopers. We aim to truly make this a system of the people, for the people and by the people.
As we are looking forward to unlocking the economy and getting back to the ‘new’ normalcy, the solution as described in the whitepaper can help us in being more confident while stepping out. It can help us with the following advantages:
- Data Privacy through Masking, to safeguard patient’s personal details
- Ability to verify data, thereby reducing rumour mongering
- Authentication mechanism for users, thereby lesser chance of information getting leaked to bad actors and miscreants
- Data Simulation and Visualization, for effective analysis, forecasting, and decision making
- Device based access, helping information spread faster
- Auto data redundancy and updation mechanism, to help users with only the most recent data
The solution can help various actors involved in contact tracing through the following means:
- Reduced occurrences of getting closer to suspect cases, outside of the work duty
- Early warnings to be alert and be prepared before entering a specific zone
- Ability to verify the information and authority to remove the occurrences of rumours
- Relevant information available for decision making and planning
- Early warning of containment zones before planning a travel
- Latest and verifiable information available on fingertips
- Even if found positive, ability to verify information with the test facility
- Auto updation of information helping with new danger zones and safer zones while moving around
- Flexible analysis framework, helping in analysing the data through specific, custom-defined parameters
- Robust data validation mechanism, reducing the chances of rumours
- Ability to simulate data helping to understand the information and take timely decisions
As the world is moving quickly with novel contact tracing mechanisms in place, we are witnessing more and more mobile apps using in-built contact tracing solutions so that users can travel safely and go about their businesses as before.
Stay healthy and stay safe! Make sure that you have the relevant information always at your fingertips!