New AI technology will be used to improve contact tracing for COVID-19

New AI algorithms that provide information about physical distancing, the isolation measures that a person who tested positive for COVID has taken, and testing results for individuals will be incorporated into a contact tracing app to better forecast the spread of COVID-19 and predict any further outbreaks of the virus.

Patricia Nieva and William Melek, University of Waterloo mechanical and mechatronics engineering professors, are partnering with Facedrive Health, a Toronto-based company, to incorporate the new algorithms they’re developing into a smart phone contact tracing app called TraceSCAN.

“As the economy starts to reopen and people leave their homes and start working onsite again, there will be a need for continuous widespread testing for COVID-19,” said Nieva. “A digital contact tracing system that can quickly alert people who may have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 will be a critical tool in slowing the spread of the disease and mitigating further waves of infection and our new algorithms will help to make these apps much more effective.”

In addition to contact tracing, Nieva, Melek and a team of Waterloo Engineering students are creating software algorithms for the grouping of individuals within a community based on smart phone Bluetooth data. They are also working on wearable Bluetooth devices that will further improve the accuracy of the app.

Facedrive Health is developing the platform to comply with the national standards and laws that govern online privacy.

“The AI platform, with the app, Bluetooth device and Bluetooth data will help better analyze and predict the spread of infectious diseases and any other future outbreaks while maintaining the privacy of Canadians,” said Melek. “The AI algorithms will improve contact-tracing accuracy and real-time monitoring of the recovery progress through measurement of specific vital signs.”

“As a multi-faceted people-and-planet first company, we are excited to be collaborating with Professors Nieva and Melek on the development of the contact tracing solutions that will protect people and their families during these unprecedented times,” said Suman Pushparajah, chief operations officer of Facedrive. “Professors Nieva and Melek bring their expertise in artificial intelligence and sensor development, which will make the TraceSCAN app stand out in comparison to other contact tracing solutions.”

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