Science & Technology

Designed a secure “virtual” epidemic.Spreading it will help us learn about COVID

Associate Professor of Data Science, University of Queensland, by Yoni Nazarathy


One of the biggest challenges in managing a coronavirus pandemic is the lack of real-time information about the spread of the virus.

The goal of a well-meaning government is clear, but to minimize economic and social impacts and mitigate proliferation, but it is very difficult to determine the best policy to achieve this.

In Australia, public health authorities have consistently worked to encourage testing for viruses. The main impetus behind this was the desire to find positive cases and track their contacts.

By-products are information about how the virus spreads to the general public and can be used to inform decisions about measures such as wearing masks and restricting movement.

However, at best, the information provided by testing an individual is partial, biased, and lagging. This makes it difficult to determine in real time when to impose limits, which is probably the most important tool in the fight against pandemics.

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This graph plots the new coronavirus cases identified in Victoria last year, along with the imposition and removal of restrictions.
Courtesy of author

To help us Safe blues Framework. This is a collaborative project by researchers from the University of Queensland, the University of Auckland, the University of Melbourne, the University of Cornell, the University of Columbia, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of McCawley, and the Delft University of Technology.

In this framework, virus-like tokens spread across mobile devices via Bluetooth. This is the same as a biological virus spreading among people.

When adopted, tools like Safe Blues may help public health authorities better manage outbreaks by providing data on common levels of contact between people. Our treatise Published today in Cell Press journal pattern Summarize the idea.

read more:
Mathematicians explain how to flatten the curve of the coronavirus

How about COVIDSafe?

Last year, the Australian Government released the COVIDSafe contact tracing app. It is backed by a large government-funded media campaign, Initially hired by millions Of the user.

COVIDSafe Works by It uses a Bluetooth signal to record a digital “handshake” between the user’s smartphone and a nearby contact who has the app. This information is stored in a format that can be retroactively accessed if the device owner tests positive. You can then track and test those contacts.

The idea has its benefits, but A handful An example where the app could pick up a confirmed case more effectively than a human contact tracer. So is Bluetooth and public health marriage useless?

I do not think so.

Spread of virtual virus using Bluetooth

Social distance acts on all viruses, not just SAR-CoV-2 (COVID-19 pandemic virus). For example, the blockade of major COVID-19 not only suppressed the spread of SARS-CoV-2, but also Alleviate the spread of colds..

With this in mind, let’s return to the problem of lack of information and consider a thought experiment. virtual A virus that spreads just like COVID-19? Although this is harmless and can be tracked in real time.

By studying how this virtual virus evolves, we will gather important insights into how SARs-CoV-2 evolve. This allows decision makers to apply restrictions and devise the best strategies to prevent the virus from spreading further.

To implement the framework, mobile devices with a random subset of the population are intentionally infected with a safe digital virus called Safe Bruce.

Then, based on the results of measuring how this “infection” spreads, public health authorities can better understand how the actual coronavirus spreads.

Statistically, the number of cases and patterns presented by the Safe Blue app follows a trend similar to that of a real virus.

Of course, the actual individual infected with SAR-CoV-2 and the individual infected with Safe Bruce are not the same. In fact, simulations show that only a small part of the population needs to participate in the SafeBlues app to provide reliable forecasts.

How Safe Blues Ideas Work.

It is important to note that Bluetooth signals do not propagate like viruses. However, if you generate hundreds of variants of Bluetooth-based virtual tokens, this ensemble can capture many of the social movement patterns that promote infection and therefore can correlate with the actual virus. ..

Where is Safe Blues now?

Safe Blues machine learning techniques have been developed and evaluated using mathematical simulation models. Early results show that an ensemble of safe blues token strands can provide strong estimates of actual epidemic behavior.

The Safe Blues team is currently working towards a system pilot at the University of Auckland. The purpose is to use the experimental SafeBlues Android app to generate and investigate how virtual viruses spread in a campus environment.

The insights provided by the app can also be combined with data from Wastewater measurement From Existing social network Google, Apple, Facebook, etc.

We believe that virtual virus spreading technologies such as Safe Bruce can greatly contribute to a real-time understanding of this pandemic and future epidemics.


Yoni Nazarathy is funded by the Australian Research Council.

Peter Taylor is funded by the Australian Research Council.

Peter Taylor is funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) through the award-winning fellowship FL130100039 and the ARC Center of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistics Frontiers.

Originally published conversation..

Designed a secure “virtual” epidemic.Spreading it will help us learn about COVID Designed a secure “virtual” epidemic.Spreading it will help us learn about COVID

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