The new strain of the COVID-19 virus was first discovered in South East Asia when a 45-person cluster got infected in Malaysia from a traveller who returned from India and breached his 14-day quarantine. The Philippines detected the strain among random COVID-19 samples in the largest city of its capital region. Since then, the world has been struggling to cope with the mutation that seems to be far more infectious.
The mutation called D614G makes a small but effective change in the virus’s spike protein, which the virus uses to enter the human cell. “The mutation is said to have a higher possibility of transmission or infectiousness, but we still don’t have enough solid evidence to say that that will happen,” Philippines’ Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual briefing.
The strain has been found in many other countries and has become the predominant variant in Europe and the US but the World Health Organization says there is no evidence the strain leads to more severe disease.
There’s no evidence from the epidemiology that the mutation is considerably more infectious than other strains, said Benjamin Cowling, head of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Hong Kong. “It’s more commonly identified now than it was in the past, which suggests that it might have some kind of competitive advantage over other strains of Covid-19.”
Managing the pandemic at a national and global level is extremely difficult at it is being done in an environment cynicism of public health institutions. Data breaches of hospitals, health facilities and similar databases have been a fairly regular occurrence.
National responses to outbreaks vary greatly from country to country and there have been conflicting messages between leaders, health agencies and experts. These have fostered increased concern and confusion in the wider population. As Southeast Asian countries take various steps to prevent a resurgence while reopening limited travel, they struggle with people breaching quarantine rules after returning from overseas as well as false-negative test results at borders.
The delays in rolling out available vaccines and the discovery of new strains have forced a number to countries to go into lockdowns again and enforce stricter social distancing norms and restrictions.
In an increasingly tech-dependent and tech-driven world, it is pertinent that the healthcare sector explores new technologies to provide information, options and advice. Citizens need safe and secure solutions that can help them track, monitor and manage risk from the virus and also help them go out for work and fulfil essential tasks of daily life.
Novel technologies and platforms, of course, have been launched to help inform citizens on testing, care and movement. The most well-known of these would be contact tracing and symptom-reporting apps, some of which are increasingly being deployed by local and national public health agencies.
Using AI and ML, Liberty & Passage has been designed to help provide relevant timely information and build the confidence required to restart free movement between countries and continents, giving travellers when crossing borders and authority’s confidence when processing foreign visitors at customs.
With these critical features, Liberty & Passage is an outbreak management solution for individuals, organisations, and the entire travel industry.
The platform is designed for the entire population with Liberty Open designed to manage personal risk, Liberty Corporate for organisations to ensure a safe return to work and Liberty Passage for travel and reopening of borders. Everyone gains from the vast insights the system provides to be able to go about their normal lives while keeping as safe as possible against this virulent threat.
By joining the three pillars together, ‘the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts’ giving the general public, employees and travellers freedom to move with confidence and a more intelligent understanding of their risk exposure using cutting edge technology.
Tech innovation is helping to manage the pandemic and better equip countries when dealing with the current public health emergency and for future public health emergencies. Outbreak management systems will be the key in building confidence, mitigating risk and enhancing safety in everyday life.
For more information on how the Liberty Solution works – please visit www.libertyandpassage.com
Seven intelligent robots have been installed in the wards of Yishun Community Hospital (YCH) to welcome patients and bring supplies to the bedside. These brand-new Temi Robots, known as Angel, were introduced to support nursing care so that nurses could focus their time and energy on clinical tasks while still giving patients a personal and meaningful touch.
These robots are loaded with patient education materials that patients and their caregivers can easily access, in addition to providing announcements and reminders throughout the day in all four major languages.
They also have a variety of features like games and entertainment, teleconference tools, and translation capabilities. YCH hopes to further improve patient engagement and satisfaction in its wards with the new addition.
A pilot project using Nao Robots was also used by YCH in previous years to assist dementia patients in their rehabilitation. Robot Therapy, which was started by the staff at YCH in 2018, is now a part of the therapy-related services offered there.
YCH, which is conceived of as a healing space for patients, offers intermediate care for recovering patients who do not require the intensive care services of an acute-care hospital. With rehabilitation and therapy at the heart of the hospital’s mission, the team was eager to investigate the potential of the innovation, Robot Therapy.
Because they can perform a wide range of tasks with little to no value added, hospital robots offer a reliable solution, freeing up doctors, nurses, and surgeons to focus on more high-value work. Robots have become an integral part of the healthcare industry, with many hospitals now using them to perform both surgical and administrative tasks.
In addition, prior to the arrival of Nao Robots in Singapore, a few local nursing homes used Paro, a robot that mimics the appearance, movement, and sounds of a baby seal. The therapeutic robot seal’s use is like animal therapy in that the robot helps to calm elderly people who have dementia or a loss of cognitive function.
The Nao robot, on the other hand, came with higher expectations: it can express emotions like laughter or sadness during interactions; it can interact and communicate with patients in different languages; and it has optic, audio, and impact sensors and motors to detect surroundings, interpret detection, and activate programmed responses.
Various interaction and language modes can be programmed into the Nao robot. The YCH Robot Therapy team took advantage of this by incorporating the robot into specific therapy sessions. This increased efficiency freed up nursing time, which could then be used for other care activities. Nao robot therapy sessions were trialled with 48 patients from the Dementia ward in October 2018.
Patients with Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD) require more care and attention, so this was chosen as the pilot ward. By introducing the Nao robot, YCH has increased patient engagement, motivate them to engage in social activities, and shorten the time required for social activities so that caregivers could concentrate on other care-related tasks.
The implementation process was divided into three stages: training staff, selecting suitable patients and assessing seniors who participated in the Robot Therapy programme using the Observed Emotion Rating Scale.
Singhealth asserts that the COVID-19 pandemic, which hastened the adoption of these solutions and accelerated the digital transformation of healthcare systems globally, has sparked a tremendous interest in digital technology and virtual health solutions.
A group of clinician innovators from SingHealth sought to ascertain whether digital interventions are more affordable and provide patients with greater value and benefits in anticipation of this continuing upward trend, and they discovered that this may not always be the case for some eye conditions.
Officially launched on 29 November 2022, the ANU School of Cybernetics provides unrivalled teaching and research that pioneers a new approach to engineering and technology design. School Director, ANU Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell, noted that the School nurtures and trains a new generation of critical thinkers and practitioners who can navigate an increasingly complex world and who are committed to ensuring safe, sustainable, and responsible technology futures.
She said the new School’s leadership is working hard to help transform the way society engages with technology. Their aim is to help ensure that everyone can participate in building the future. And they are working to find new ways to think about and talk about the role of technology in our lives. The ANU School of Cybernetics is dedicated to helping lead and enrich this vital conversation.
The School and its curriculum draw on the rich history of cybernetics globally and reimagine it for the 21st-century challenges. The goal is to make sure major societal transformations can be successfully navigated.
The ANU School of Cybernetics offers the Master of Applied Cybernetics, a PhD program that recruits students as a cohort, and a series of microlearning experiences for organisations, communities, and individuals.
The School’s research program investigates how emerging cyber-physical, technological systems – such as robotics, digital voice assistants, and autonomous systems – operate across a range of settings and sectors including the creative industries, marine sciences, agriculture, and climate change research.
Distinguished Professor Bell said another key focus of the School was examining who is building and managing our AI-enabled future. There is a need to develop the ability to respond quickly to changing situations and complex systems and many, diverse voices must be involved in making those decisions and building new knowledge, she said.
The last few years have shown that better stories about the future need to be told; stories that are more equitable, fair, and just, and that, equally, more work needs to be present to make those stories not just possible but true.
To help launch the School, an inaugural curated exhibition featuring more than 100 historical and contemporary pieces is on display until 2 December in the award-winning Birch Building on the ANU campus.
From the world’s first computer graphics, animations, special effects, and electronic music, Australian Cybernetic: a point through time explores 50 years of technology and creativity in computing that have influenced the technology, cinema, gaming, and television we know today.
The collection of interactive, immersive, and provocative creations also includes an Emmy Award-winning virtual reality film; an acclaimed installation examining the resources, human labour, and algorithmic processing of a virtual assistant technology system; and a kinetic sculpture named ‘Albert’ that has been delighting audiences for 54 years, among many other displays.
The cybernetic futures lead at the School said the exhibition speaks firmly to the School’s approach of observing the past to help shape a course for the role of technologies in today’s world. He noted that for the first time, historic, contemporary, and conceptual cybernetic works are being brought together in a unique exhibition. People are invited to take a tour through time and learn about the history of technology and art and how this contributed to cybernetics and the multimedia, tech and music enjoyed today.
Astronomers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have completely automated the classification of 1,000 supernovae using a machine-learning (ML) algorithm. The Zwicky Transient Facility, or ZTF, a sky survey instrument located at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory, collected data that the algorithm was then used to analyse.
“We needed a helping hand, and we knew that once we trained our computers to do the job, they would take a big load off our backs,” says Christoffer Fremling, a staff astronomer at Caltech and the mastermind behind the new algorithm tagged as SNIascore.
A year and a half after SNIascore classified its first supernova in April 2021, they are approaching the pleasant milestone of 1,000 supernovae. Every night, ZTF scans the night sky for alterations known as transient events. This covers everything, from asteroids in motion to recently devoured stars by black holes to exploding stars known as supernovae.
ZTF notifies astronomers worldwide of these transient events by sending out hundreds of thousands of alerts each night. Other telescopes are then used by astronomers to monitor and learn more about the nature of the shifting objects. Thousands of supernovae have so far been found thanks to ZTF data.
Members of the ZTF team cannot organise all the data on their own due to the constant flow of data that comes in every night. According to Matthew Graham, project scientist for ZTF and research professor of astronomy at Caltech, “the traditional notion of an astronomer sitting at the observatory and sieving through telescope images carries a lot of romanticism but is drifting away from reality.”
Instead, to help with the searches, the team has created ML algorithms. SNIascore was created to categorise potential supernovae. There are two main categories of supernovae: Type I and Type II. In contrast to Type II supernovae, Type I supernovae are devoid of hydrogen.
When material from a companion star flows onto a white dwarf star, causing a thermonuclear explosion, a Type I supernova is produced. When a massive star collapses due to its own gravity, a Type II supernova happens. Type Ia supernovae, or the “standard candles” in the sky, can be classified by SNIascore. These are dying stars that explode with a steady-state thermonuclear blast.
Astronomers can gauge the universe’s expansion rate thanks to Type Ia supernovae. Fremling and colleagues are currently expanding the algorithm’s capabilities to classify additional types of supernovae soon.
Every night, after ZTF has recorded sky flashes that may be supernovae, it sends the data to the SEDM spectrograph at Palomar, which is in a dome a short distance away (Spectral Energy Distribution Machine).
To determine which supernovae are likely Type Ias, SNIascore collaborates with SEDM. As a result, the ZTF team is working quickly to compile a more trustworthy data set of supernovae that will allow astronomers to conduct additional research and, ultimately, learn more about the physics of the potent stellar explosions.
“SNIascore is incredibly precise. We have observed the performance of the algorithm in the real world after 1,000 supernovae” says Fremling. Since the initial launch in April 2021, they have found no clearly misclassified events, and they are now planning to implement the same algorithm with other observing facilities.
According to Ashish Mahabal, who oversees ZTF’s machine learning initiatives and is the centre’s lead computational and data scientist at Caltech, their work demonstrates how ML applications are maturing in near real-time astronomy.
The SNIascore was created as part of the ZTF’s Bright Transient Survey (BTS), which is currently the most comprehensive supernova survey available to the astronomical community. The entire BTS dataset contains nearly 7000 supernovae, 90 per cent of which were discovered and classified by ZTF while the remaining 10 per cent were contributed by other groups and facilities.
A Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) collaborative research team has synthesised a nanoparticle named TRZD that can perform the dual function of diagnosing and treating glioma in the brain. It emits persistent luminescence for the diagnostic imaging of glioma tissues in vivo and inhibits the growth of tumour cells by aiding the targeted delivery of chemotherapy drugs.
The nanoparticle offers hope for the early diagnosis and treatment of glioma, especially cerebellar glioma, which is even harder to detect and cure with existing methods. The research results have been published in Science Advances, an international scientific journal.
Limitations of existing diagnostic and therapeutic approaches
Glioma is the most common form of malignant primary brain tumour, accounting for roughly one-third of all brain tumours. While magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is commonly used to diagnose glioma, the technology lacks sensitivity. Cerebellar glioma, a relatively rare brain tumour, is even harder to detect with MRI. To facilitate early detection and treatment, an alternative method with improved sensitivity and precision is needed to diagnose glioma.
A chemotherapy agent called Doxorubicin is an effective treatment for glioma. However, its application may also damage normal cells, and it is associated with a range of side effects. To enhance doxorubicin’s clinical efficacy and minimise its side effects, a novel approach is needed to apply the drug to tumour cells in a more targeted manner.
In response to the diagnostic and therapeutic needs of glioma, a research team co-led by Dr Wang Yi, Assistant Professor of the Department of Chemistry at HKBU, and Professor Law Ga-lai, Professor of the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, has synthesised a novel near-infrared (NIR) persistent luminescence nanoparticle called TRZD, which can play a dual role in diagnostic imaging and as a drug carrier for glioma.
An imaging probe for glioma diagnosis
The research team evaluated the efficacy of TRZ (i.e., TRZD without doxorubicin) in diagnostic imaging for glioma with a mouse model. First, TRZ particles were excited by UV light to initiate luminescence. Mice with tumour tissues injected into their cerebrum and cerebellum were then treated with TRZ. Over the next 24 hours, TRZ luminescence was detected at the tumour sites of the mice.
However, when the same experiment was conducted with TRZ without T7 peptides, and TRZ without both the red blood cell membrane coating and T7 peptides, no luminescence was detected at the tumour sites of the mice. The results show that the red blood cell membrane coating can prolong the function of TRZ by stabilising the nanoparticle, and it can slow down its natural uptake by the human body.
The research team further evaluated the anti-tumour efficacy of TRZD using a group of mice who had had their cerebrum and cerebellum injected with tumour tissues.
After applying TRZD for 15 days, the average diameter of their tumours was reduced to 1 mm. They also survived 20 days longer on average compared to the control group, who had not received TRZD. Besides, cell death was observed in the tumour region but not in normal brain tissue.
The results indicate that TRZD’s therapeutic effect on glioma has good selectivity because doxorubicin is brought specifically to tumour cells due to T7 peptide’s strong affinity with tumour cells’ surface receptors and its ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. As a result, doxorubicin can be applied in a more targeted manner, and hopefully, its side effects can be minimised with reduced drug dosage.
The team concluded that the nanotechnology demonstrates promising potential, and it could be developed into a new generation of anti-glioma drugs that can perform the dual function of diagnosis and treatment. It also offers hope for the development of treatment protocols for other brain diseases.
Aquaculture is important to the Thai economy. To ensure the long-term growth of this important industry, it is necessary to strengthen the production system by increasing farmers’ sustainable farming capacity and implementing Aquaculture 4.0.
To help with this effort, the nation’s National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre under the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NECTEC-NSTDA) created Aqua-IoT, an IoT-based monitoring system for water’s physical, chemical, and biological qualities.
Dr Supanit Porntheeraphat, Principal Researcher of the NECTEC Digital Agriculture Technology Research Team, explained that the project to develop a digital aquaculture system began at NECTEC in 2010 at the height of disease outbreaks that severely harmed Thailand’s aquaculture industry and the overall economy. The system has been constantly developed and improved since then.
The integration of key data – physical, chemical, and biological water qualities, as well as weather – into a single dashboard allows users to understand the relationship between the data, analyse the data, and make informed decisions.
Dr Supanit added that Aqua-IoT is made up of four major systems: the Water and Weather Monitoring System, the MuEye System, the ChemEye System, and the Minimal Lab System. The first system measures water quality (temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen) as well as weather (wind speed and direction, light intensity, and rainfall).
These variables are critical for aeration and feed management. The MuEye System is intended to track the growth of aquatic animals and parasites, whereas the ChemEye is a chemical reader that measures the levels of nitrite, ammonia, chlorine, phosphate, and pH in the pond.
Minimal Lab is a probiotic application management system that monitors bacteria growth. The system is also integrated with BIOTEC-NSTDA disease diagnostic tests for shrimp and fish, with test results automatically sent to an online database that users can access via a web browser and a message application.
Aqua-IoT technology has already been licenced to businesses, allowing the devices to be sold commercially. Its advantages include energy and feed cost savings, as well as disease risk reduction. On the first crop, a return on investment can be expected.
The research team began introducing Aqua-IoT to aquaculture farmers in the eastern region in 2020. Working closely with farmers, according to Dr Supanit, allows researchers to better understand their requirements and needs, which leads to the development of other technologies to support aquaculture farming.
An automatic shrimp counting machine for managing pond density and a lift net machine that automatically measures shrimp density for feed and water quality management are two technologies under development.
Udon Songserm, the owner of Wasin Farm in Rayong Province, shared his Aqua-IoT experience. He clearly sees the benefits of cost, time, and labour savings after having the system installed in one of his ponds. He no longer needs to be on-site all the time to keep an eye on his ponds.
Dissolved oxygen data enables him to activate aerators only when needed, rather than always having the machines on, significantly reducing energy costs. Data on water’s chemical and biological properties prompt him to take appropriate actions to avoid losses caused by toxic conditions and disease outbreaks.
Udon also stated that some of the data collected from this pond, such as temperature, can be applied to other ponds in the area. The temperature has a direct effect on dissolved oxygen and can thus be used to manage aeration.
The NSTDA is tasked with accelerating science, technology, and innovation development in Thailand to respond to industry needs and improve the country’s competitiveness in the global economy, thereby contributing to national economic and social development. NSTDA is made up of five national research centres and two organisations involved in technology transfer and business development and promotion including the NECTEC.
The Victoria University of Wellington’s division of Science, Health, Engineering, Architecture, and Design Innovation (SHEADI) will inaugurate a Centre of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence in the first half of 2023.
According to a statement from the University, the centre will offer areas of expertise in modelling and statistical learning; evolutionary and multi-objective learning; deep learning and transfer learning; image, text, signal, and language processing; scheduling and combinational optimisation; and interpretable AI/ML learning.
These technological themes will be applied across a wide range of areas including primary industry, climate change and environment; health, biology, medical outcomes; security, energy, high-value manufacturing; and social, public policy, and ethics applications. On top of traditional research, the centre will also establish a pipeline of scholarships/internships for Maori students, train early career researchers, and focus on industry, intellectual property, and commercialisation.
The centre will build on the current success and international leadership in this space at the University, the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the division, Ehsan Mesbahi, stated. The institute is continuing to grow its national and international partnerships to create local and global value. The centre will provide a distinctive identity for the growing excellence and innovation in data science and AI research at the University, capabilities which domestic and global partners are increasingly demanding across a vast array of application domains.
In May, the University announced it would offer the first undergraduate major in Artificial Intelligence in the country. It provides students with knowledge of AI concepts, techniques, and tools. They learn how to apply that knowledge to solve problems, combined with programming skills that will enable them to build software tools incorporating AI technology that will help shape the future.
Students studying AI at the University are taught by academics from its internationally renowned AI/ML research group, which is one of the largest in the southern hemisphere. The major is designed to open doors for graduates to opportunities nationally and around the world. There has been an increase in the adoption of AI technologies globally, and a growing demand for people who can apply AI techniques to address a wide range of problems, which the University aims to address.
After completing their degree, graduates will have a wide variety of career options, such as AI scientist, business consultant, AI architect, data analyst, machine learning engineer, and robotic scientist among others. They will also have the option to further their study through the University’s Master of Artificial Intelligence.
OpenGov Asia reported earlier that New Zealand’s Education Technology (EdTech) is set to become one of the country’s key industries. Worth NZ$ 173.6 million in 2020, EdTech software is poised to grow to NZ$ 319.6 million by 2025. At the heart of the digital transformation of education technology has been the pandemic. COVID-19 is seen as the driving force behind the digital transformation of learning, permanently changing the way education is consumed and delivered — right from preschool through post-tertiary education and lifelong learning. The global EdTech market size was valued at US$ 254.8 billion in 2021. Experts believe the market will reach US$ 605.4 billion by 2027.
With the introduction of its Kooha Version 2.0 during the recently held 2022 National Science and Technology Week celebration, the Department of Science and Technology-Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI) showered photo enthusiasts with helpful tips on interactive smartphone photography.
Kooha is a photo-sharing app derived from the Filipino word “kuha,” which means “to take.” It capitalises on the Philippines’ status as “the selfie capital of the world,” with thousands of photographs shared on various social media platforms every day.
With the help of the camera app Kooha, users may take pictures that go beyond simple snapshots. Multiple sensors are embedded into mobile devices; Kooha uses these sensor data while users snap pictures and embeds them in the image.
Users will be able to quickly learn the location where the photo was shot, the background noise when they shoot a selfie, the network provider’s signal strength, the device battery level, camera settings, environment sensor data, motion sensor, and more. All the photographs captured by the app are shared on Kooha Community. Users’ photos become more than just images when they post them to the community; they become contributions.
When the sensor data from the images is combined with the large pool of sensor data from other users, the data becomes societally important. The data can assist data scientists in generating insights and fresh knowledge that can be used by decision-makers across the country. Kooha is a free app that can be downloaded from Google Play.
According to the DOST-ASTI, Kooha uses the built-in sensors of a mobile device to gather real-time data like sound level, temperature, and humidity and embeds it into a snapshot, making it particularly valuable in research operations across industries thanks to the fresh knowledge it produces.
It added that even more useful Kooha features include the ability to contribute images to the community section, rate shared photos based on “awards” from other users, map the locations of pinned photos, and unlock “badges” by completing specific “achievements.”
As a useful tool application, Kooha reflects the reality that science and the arts may collaborate effectively to produce meaningful results. In addition, the DOST- ASTI’s Quality Management System (QMS) was recertified in accordance with the ISO 9001:2015 standard.
Director of DOST-ASTI Franz A. de Leon stated that the ISO recertification demonstrates the DOST-ASTI’s dedication to continuously enhance its operations and assure successful service delivery – bringing science and technology closer to the people.
He added that their partners and stakeholders can be confident that the institute will constantly offer high-quality products and services because they adhere to the quality policy of developing relevant, timely, and impactful ICT- and electronics-based innovations.
The ISO certificate was the result of the DOST-ASTI management and staff’s collaborative efforts to expand its technologies and ensure the smooth execution of its mandate and functions. Reviewing and improving processes is critical to achieving the agency’s purpose of contributing to the achievement of national development priorities and the growth of Philippine firms through the provision of creative solutions centred on ICT and electronics technology.
This is DOST-ASTI’s second recertification since transitioning to the ISO 9001:2015 standard in 2018. Subject to regular surveillance assessments, the certificate is valid until November 2025.