THE INSTITUTE Symptoms of COVID-19 can vary from mild to severe and often overlap with other illnesses, which makes it difficult to diagnose people without a test. However, it has been difficult for testing sites to keep up with the demand, and they can quickly get overcrowded.
Several students interested in engineering as well as experienced engineers have developed tools to help prevent overcrowding at testing sites.
One team, made of five high school students from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, in Alexandria, Va., created a central repository for COVID-19 testing sites to combat this issue.
In India, IEEE Senior Member CRS Kumar is leading a team that developed a mobile app to help people assess whether they need to get tested for the virus in order to lessen the burden on the testing sites.
The Institute asked Kumar about the mobile app.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What problem are you trying to solve?
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a very serious global challenge. Every day millions of people are being tested for COVID-19, and it has been difficult for the testing sites to keep up with the demand. To prevent overcrowding at testing sites and lessen the [work]load of [their workers], we developed a mobile app called Arogya-Kshema so individuals can do a self-assessment [test].
The test covers all the symptoms of COVID-19 and [has been] designed in [partnership] with doctors and other healthcare experts.
Explain how your project works.
Users first choose the language they wish for the mobile app to be in. Languages include Hindi, Tamil, and Malayalam, as well as English, Japanese, and Spanish.
Users answer 13 questions about their symptoms and health condition—eight [require a] yes/no [response] and five [are] multiple choice. The app then generates diagnostic messages with color codes [based on the user’s answers]. Green means the person shows no symptoms, blue means the user may have a mild infection and advises [the person] to see a medical professional, and red means the user has a high chance of infection and advises [the individual] to seek medical attention immediately or to get tested.
What technologies are you using?
ArogyaKshemaa was developed using [the] latest version of Android Studio, an app development system. [Android Studio provided the team with a Java class and a Web kit to create the app].
Every answer for every question is assigned a weight [based on how indicative the symptom is of the virus] and [a] final score is calculated as an aggregate sum of the weights of the chosen options. The final score is then compared with the [associated] threshold values to determine [what diagnostic message the user receives].
The mobile app does not collect, store, or share information from the user’s self-assessment test. A central design point of the Android security architecture is that no app, by default, has permission to perform any operations that would adversely impact other apps, the operating system, or the user.
What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
[One] we faced was deciding on the list of symptoms of COVID-19 [to be] measured in the app. We consulted with medical professionals and experts, [who helped us finalize the list.]
We also had a hard time translating the app to multiple languages and publishing [it] on [the] Google Play Store. We translated [the app] using Google translator [and then consulted with a team of] language experts both from India and abroad.
What is the potential impact of the technology?
Testing plays an important role in combating COVID-19. Millions of tests are performed daily; however, the results are not instantaneous. [Many testing sites are also overwhelmed with the amount of people wanting to get tested.] ArogyaKshema [can] assist users [in deciding whether they need to see a doctor and get tested or if they can wait.]
How close are you to the final product?
The mobile app is available on the Google Play Store for Android devices. A version is being developed for iOS devices.
We are adding several features to the mobile app such as the ability to analyze images and the user’s speech in order to detect symptoms of COVID-19, integrating the app with the COVID-19 Social Vaccine Toolkit [a guide Kumar created that explains best practices to protect people from the virus], and the ability to track the development of the COVID-19 vaccine and schedule to be vaccinated [when it is available].
How many people are involved, and how many IEEE members are involved?
We have three postgraduate students working on the project. We have also consulted [with] several doctors in India and abroad.