Ohio State University

Using your phone’s microphone to track possible COVID-19 exposure

Researchers say high-frequency sounds could be a key to contact tracing
30-Jun-2020 10:30 AM EDT, by Ohio State University

Newswise — COLUMBUS, Ohio – Signals sent and received from cell phone microphones and speakers could help warn people when they have been near someone who has contracted COVID-19, researchers say.

In a new paper, researchers described a system that would generate random, anonymous IDs for each phone, automatically send ultrasonic signals between microphones and speakers of phones within a certain radius, and use the information exchanged through this acoustic channel for contact tracing.   

If a person tested positive for COVID-19, he or she would update his or her anonymous IDs and the timestamp when the IDs were generated in the past two weeks to a central database managed by a trusted health care authority. Each individual in the system will pull the positive patient’s IDs and compare locally to check whether he or she has had any contact with the patient. 

“We want to generate some kind of sound that cannot be heard by humans, but that phones can hear,” said Dong Xuan, the leading faculty member of this research and a professor of computer science and engineering at The Ohio State University.

“The phone will periodically generate some kind of sound token and send that token to nearby phones – and the key advantage over other technologies is that the ultrasound could have limited range and will not penetrate obstacles such as walls.”

The paper, which has not been peer-reviewed, was posted on the arXiv pre-print server.

Tech companies have already proposed using a phone’s Bluetooth capability – which allows cell phones to “talk” to other nearby devices such as phones, smart watches and speakers – to build such a network. But Bluetooth, said Zhiqiang Lin, a co-author of the paper and an assistant professor of computer science and engineering, could lead to a high number of false-positive close contacts.

“Bluetooth has a problem of traveling too far,” Lin said. “Bluetooth signals can travel through walls and reach further than we would want. And with COVID, we want to find just those people with whom you have been in direct close contact – within that 6-foot radius, for example.”

Contact tracing – identifying people who might have been exposed to a person who has tested positive for the virus – has been a key part of the public health strategy to stop the spread of illnesses for decades. In the case of COVID-19, though, contact tracing has been difficult. People might remember who they met for dinner before symptoms appeared, but they likely would not know how to contact the strangers who were near them in the grocery store.

“It’s hard for people to remember who they had contact with, and augmenting manual contact tracing with automated techniques could greatly increase its reliability,” said Ness Shroff, Ohio Eminent Scholar in networking and communications, who is leading an effort to develop an automated system for contact tracing and symptom reporting for the return to full operations at Ohio State.

Cell phone tracing could solve that problem, Shroff said – as long as it is accurate and provides a satisfactory level of privacy, and as long as people use it.

In Singapore, for example, authorities rolled out a contact tracing smartphone app in early March. Authorities estimated that about 60 percent of people needed to use the app for it to be effective; only about one in six people in Singapore downloaded the app.

The Singapore app, too, picked up contact between people who were in the same vicinity, but separated by walls or windows.

Shroff said the acoustic sensors might offer more control in the effort to trace the virus.

“In addition to exploring Bluetooth, we want to leverage other sensors in the phone to do contact tracing,” Xuan said. “The key advantage of this work is that it lets a phone search for complementary sensors and uses the sensors to detect proximity. That is something that can complement the Bluetooth technology.”

Other Ohio State researchers on this work include Adam C. Champion, Yuxiang Luo, Cheng Zhang, Yunqi Zhang, and Chaoshun Zuo. The work is currently supported in part by an NSF RAPID grant for defending against COVID-19.

 

SEE ORIGINAL STUDY




Filters close

Showing results

1120 of 2915
Newswise: Busting Up the Infection Cycle of Hepatitis B
Released: 13-Aug-2020 12:50 PM EDT
Busting Up the Infection Cycle of Hepatitis B
University of Delaware

Researchers at the University of Delaware have gained new understanding of the virus that causes hepatitis B and the “spiky ball” that encloses the virus’s genetic blueprint. They examined how the capsid—a protein shell that protects the blueprint and also drives the delivery of it to infect a host cell—assembles itself. Scientists believe that the capsid is an important target in developing drugs to treat hepatitis B, a life-threatening and incurable infection that afflicts more than 250 million people worldwide.

Newswise: 240097_web.jpg
Released: 13-Aug-2020 12:05 PM EDT
Stay-at-home orders significantly associated with reduced spread of COVID-19, study finds
Brown University

Across the globe, COVID-19 has infected more than 18 million people to date and has killed hundreds of thousands -- and the United States has been hit especially hard.

Released: 13-Aug-2020 11:45 AM EDT
COVID-19 Symptom Tracker Ensures Privacy During Isolation
Georgetown University Medical Center

An online COVID-19 symptom tracking tool developed by researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center ensures a person’s confidentiality while being able to actively monitor their symptoms. The tool is not proprietary and can be used by entities that are not able to develop their own tracking systems.

Newswise: Support for telehealth and mobile health monitoring rises since COVID, study says
Released: 13-Aug-2020 11:25 AM EDT
Support for telehealth and mobile health monitoring rises since COVID, study says
University of Alabama Huntsville

Support for telehealth and mobile health monitoring has risen among healthcare workers and consumers since the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study. Dr. Emil Jovanov, a pioneer in the wearable health monitoring field from The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH), participated and was a coauthor.

Newswise: Americans actively engaging in collectivism as financial buoy, experts say
Released: 13-Aug-2020 11:25 AM EDT
Americans actively engaging in collectivism as financial buoy, experts say
University of Notre Dame

Karen Richman, University of Notre Dame director of undergraduate studies at the Institute for Latino Studies, and her colleague, found that many people in the U.S. are relying on informal networks of family and friends to stay afloat in a recent study.

Newswise: 240116_web.jpg
Released: 13-Aug-2020 11:20 AM EDT
Researchers identify a protein that may help SARS-CoV-2 spread rapidly through cells
Colorado State University

Eric Ross and Sean Cascarina, biochemistry and molecular biology researchers at Colorado State University, have released a research paper identifying a protein encoded by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, that may be associated with the quick spread of the virus through cells in the human body.

Newswise: 240119_web.jpg
Released: 13-Aug-2020 11:05 AM EDT
Public health consequences of policing homelessness
University of Colorado Denver

Two weeks ago, Colorado State Patrol troopers began clearing out nearly 200 residents from homeless encampments that surround the Colorado Capitol.

Released: 13-Aug-2020 10:35 AM EDT
Age discrimination seen @Twitter during #COVID19 pandemic
University of Michigan

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a perfect storm for age discrimination on social media.

Released: 13-Aug-2020 10:15 AM EDT
New COVID-19 Model Reveals Need for Better Travel Restriction Implementation
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

More strategic and coordinated travel restrictions could have reduced the spread of COVID-19 in the early stages of the pandemic, data confirms. The conclusion, available in preprint on MedRxiv, an online repository of papers that have been screened but not peer reviewed, stems from new modeling conducted by a multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Released: 13-Aug-2020 10:05 AM EDT
Four National Organizations Provide Guidance on Maintaining Essential Operations as COVID-19 Pandemic Continues
American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA)

The recent resurgence of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has many states near or at bed and intensive care unit (ICU) capacity, and health care facilities’ ability to meet the ongoing needs of surgical patients may be stressed by new influxes of COVID-19 patients admitted to health care facilities. To ensure health care organizations, physicians, and nurses remain prepared to meet these demands to care for patients who undergo recommended essential operations, the American College of Surgeons (ACS), American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) and American Hospital Association (AHA) have developed a Joint Statement: Roadmap for Maintaining Essential Surgery During COVID-19 Pandemic. This joint statement provides a list of principles and considerations to guide physicians, nurses, and hospitals and health systems as they provide essential care to their patients and communities. This joint statement builds on the Joint Statement:


Showing results

1120 of 2915

close
2.71247