Tech Writer, Entrepreneur, and a Visionary
It goes without saying that China has had the first laugh when it comes to stemming the usurped growth of the covid-19 pandemic.
However, things weren’t easy and straightforward. The global superpower had to make a lot of innovations to stay ahead of this global threat. One such inclusion was the Contact Tracing system, which empowered the Chinese contingent and allowed it to identify the affected individuals before they could infect others within the community. While this technology gathered a lot of positive interest, India seems to be the next country that is considering a variant of this technology, to minimize infections and casualties.
In the subsequent sections, we shall take a closer look at the concept of Contact Tracing, underlining technology, data requirements, limitations, and future scopes, pertaining to this system:
Deciphering Contact Tracing
In simpler words, Contact Tracing is one system that is capable of identifying the adjacent infections that source out of a single person who is already carrying the virus. When it comes to dealing with the covid-19 pandemic, Contact Tracing seems to be the only plausible tool for slowing down community spreads.
As far as the concept goes, Contact tracing starts with the source, and the system keeps identifying the infected individuals based on geographic proximity, population density, and the overall distancing. While the usual test kits and vigilance will locate some of the infected individuals and even the non-affected ones, the primary purpose of the contact tracing system is to determine the unknown or unidentified individuals who can then be tested for absolute results and inferences.
The primary purpose of Contact Tracing is to keep tapering down the infection chain by down streaming through the contacts. This way, all the individuals who might get infected due to one individual can be correctly identified. The subsequent steps concerning testing, quarantine, and treatment can then be decided.
Google and Apple are expected to come up with a new Contact Tracing system for combating the coronavirus threat.
Technology in Scope
A fully functional contact tracing application requires complete GPS functionality and data-set pertaining to the same. For example, once an infected person is identified, the location of this mobile phone can be used to decipher the details of every mobile-phone owner within the close proximity of the first device.
The GPS data can either be used on the basis of distance from the phone or the location of the device in general. Location-based GPS tracking is suitable for closed areas like malls and theatres, whereas, for open spaces, distance affinity seems to be the more prudent approach.
Moreover, China, despite being a densely populated country, could make Contract Tracking work, and therefore there is no reason why the same cannot be applied to the likes of Europe and the US in general.
Actionable GPS data is necessary for the Contact Tracing system to work efficiently. However, there are certain countries that under no circumstance would allow unhindered availability of GPS data. This is where working around the limitations is necessary, and innovative minds need to make use of Artificial Intelligence for making contact tracking system an absolute success.
Possibility 1: Crowdsourced Data
There will be no privacy issues if a user volunteers to data sharing. However, even then, matters pertaining to restricted access will continue hindering the success of the contact tracing system. The best-case scenario here would be to use the shared data and target the rest based on AI tools like predictive intelligence. While the output might not be completely accurate, it would still offer a definite pathway to make credible inferences.
Possibility 2: Data Capturing via Applications
There are many pandemic focused applications which come with a data capturing disclaimer. Therefore, if users install the same, some of the location data can be acquired by a specific contact tracing system, depending on the inferences made by symptom checkers, usually included within the applications.
While some might argue that only individuals with applications installed can be monitored, it is possible to push forth multiple downloads based on searches via Predictive Analytics. The built-in AI module pertaining to search engines automatically identifies audience behavior and suggests applications, accordingly.
Possibility 3: Data Tagging
The concept of Bluetooth-empowered applications that focus on data gathering is the way to go. However, this seems like a far-fetched plan and requires additional filters and fail-safe strategies to be a success.
Challenges and Loopholes
Let us presume that the government agrees on offering GPS access to the contact tracing system.However, we need to understand that location access can be a misnomer provided individuals are far away from the source of infection, and there are minimal chances of getting infected.
Real-time surveillance is the need of the hour, and countries like India, China, and even South Korea are considering allowing the same to address this impending threat. However,countries like the US are still skeptical regarding the same, and this is why contact tracing isn’t gaining a foothold in these privacy-concerned regions. That said, we can only expect the Contact Tracing system to be a success if mass adoption is encouraged, especially when a particular country is concerned.
We need to understand that social distancing will fade out with time, and this would be the time when contact tracing applications will become even more critical as they would defend countries from subsequent infection waves.