Researchers from Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) have developed a COVID-19 alert system that will send a message to users through a mobile app if they and an infected person have visited the same place within a period that gives rise to risks of exposure.
The system will not collect users’ personal information and location data, thereby protecting individuals’ privacy while alerting them on disease transmission risks associated with confirmed infection cases.
HKBU plans to launch a trial run of the system on campus in the new semester to enhance COVID-19 risks alert capability inside campus venues and during teaching and learning activities. Staff and students can join the trial voluntarily.
Developed by a research team led by the Associate Head and Professor of the Department of Computer Science at HKBU, the system has two anonymous modes of operation: venue-to-person tracing and person-to-person tracing. The system is easy to operate and users can simply use it by downloading the mobile application.
By taking a decentralised design approach, the system, which has been developed in four months, will not collect any personal information and location data. It is a safe and reliable system that uses the latest cryptographic technology to protect users’ privacy. It also includes a mechanism that prevents users from falsely claiming that they are one of the contacts of a confirmed case.
Under the venue-to-person tracing mode, when users scan the QR code before entering the venue, the venue information and the time of visit will be saved onto their mobiles. If a user tests positive for the virus, he will receive a password to log on to the system, which will then broadcast the information, including the venues he has visited and the visiting times in the past 14 days, to all users’ mobiles.
The system will send an alert to the users through their mobile phones if they and the infected user have visited the same place in the same period in the past two weeks. This will enable users to take appropriate action, including virus tests.
The person-to-person tracing mode is supported by Bluetooth Low Energy, a wireless communication technology. If two users stay within two meters of each other for a certain period, their mobile phones will exchange an anonymous code via Bluetooth and then save it in the respective phone’s database. The anonymous code associated with each user’s mobile phone will change regularly.
If a user tests positive for the virus, the other users’ mobile phones will receive the codes broadcast by the infected user’s mobile phone over the past two weeks. By comparing the codes in the database of the mobile phone, the system can assess the risk for each user that came into contact with the infected person, and set off the alarm if necessary.
Users’ privacy is well protected because all the information is stored on an individual’s mobile phone. HKBU plans to launch a trial run of the venue-to-person tracing mode of the alert system on campus. The experience of launching the system, including the lessons learned throughout the technological development process and in terms of encouraging members of the University and visitors to use the system, will help the Government and relevant organisations combat the pandemic.
The Vice-President (Research and Development) of HKBU stated since the early stages of the pandemic, HKBU has been boosting various research projects related to the virus research projects and the development of this alert system is one of the results.
The system can effectively warn people who have been in contact with a confirmed case, but it does not collect personal information. It strikes a balance between disease prevention and privacy protection.
As the global pandemic is not yet at its end, the team will make efforts to collaborate with the Government and the relevant departments to help society by transferring the University’s research and contributing to the fight against the pandemic in Hong Kong.
CEM tech is a must
The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to the urgent need for better crisis management technologies. According to Everbridge, an effective Critical Event Management program and strategy is an integrated, end-to-end process that enables organisations to significantly speed up responses to critical events and improve outcomes by mitigating or eliminating the impact of a threat.
This CEM system would mean that business continuity, disaster recovery, active assailant, emergency response, natural disaster, IT incident risk management, and mass notification would all be rolled up into an easy-to-execute, strategic plan with long-term benefits.
In May 2020, Everbridge hosted Coronavirus: the Road to Recovery on May 20th and 21st – a virtual symposium that brought together business, healthcare, and government leaders to discuss best practices of return to work. It was designed to help organisations around the world chart a path forward.
The event gathered nearly 20 executive speakers from major multinational organisations. Speakers addressed the needs of executive-level decision-makers in areas related to security, operations, risk, human resources, clinical operations, emergency management, and supply chain.
Critical event management has come to the fore with the pandemic. Forecasting, planning and management of such events help organisations prevent disruption of life and damage to property.
Everbridge Critical Event Management solutions can make a significant difference in mitigating harm caused by such critical events. They provide richer intelligence and correlating threats with locations of assets and people ensuring more rapid and comprehensive incident assessment and remediation.
The Makati City government is urging its residents, investors, workers, students, and visitors to download the Makatizen app to gain instant access to emergency hotlines and report crimes promptly to the authorities.
According to a press release, the app, available on Android and IOS, was created to bring information and public services, including emergency assistance and response, closer to the people who live, work, do business, or spend their leisure time in the country’s premier financial centre.
It aims to empower Makatizens to use their mobile phones to keep up with the latest developments at City Hall and to actively participate in the governance of the city. More importantly, it enables them to promptly contact the proper authorities during emergencies that require urgent government assistance and intervention.
The Makatizen app is one of the country’s technology-driven innovations focusing on mobility, resilience, and sustainability. It was presented by the mayor at the Smart City Expo World Congress held last month in Barcelona, Spain. Makati, the sole Philippine finalist in the 2019 World Smart Cities Awards, earned a top spot in the Innovative Idea category.
Since the app’s launch in 2017, the city’s central command centre at City Hall has recorded a significant increase in incident reports from 150 to 400 incidents per day, subsequently improving response time to emergencies.
As OpenGov reported earlier, local government units (LGUs) have been called up to embrace the switch to digital technologies to vastly improve their delivery of frontline services and generate more revenues under the New Economy in the post-pandemic era.
Last month, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III urged local executives start working with the national government in preparing for the seamless transfer of the additional devolved functions, services, and facilities that they would have to assume (beginning from 2022) with the implementation of the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on the far higher revenue allotment (IRA) share of LGUs.
Under the high court’s Mandanas doctrine, the IRA share of LGUs should come from all national taxes, as mandated under the 1991 Local Government Code, and not from just the taxes collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) within the respective jurisdictions of LGUs.
This expanded revenue coverage means the IRA share of LGUs should also include other taxes such as those collected by the Bureau of Customs (BOC). This sizable IRA increase for LGUs will let them pump-prime their respective local economies in the New Economy.
Technologies adopted should include the processing of business registrations and the collection of local taxes. Investments in information technology will not only make for more responsive governance but will also improve the revenue generation of LGUs.
The national economy, after all, is the sum of all local economies. LGUs are at the frontline of serving vulnerable communities; they are also catalysts for building a new economy while the nation does what it can to address the global health emergency.
A tech incubatee under the Hong Kong Smart Government Innovation Lab recently announced that it has launched a new solution which is now ready to be acquired by companies and institutions.
The robot was designed with a self-navigation ability in a 100,000 sqft indoor area and has an open SDK for building any additional functions. Third-party hardware – including sensors, sanitizers, UV lamp, RFID readers and various IoT products – can be added to the robot to provide mobile functions to devices/apparatus that would not be able to move usually.
The solution was designed to be applied across several areas including City Management, Commerce and Industry, Development, Finance, Health, Housing, Recreation and Culture, Social Welfare as well as Transport.
The solution employs the latest in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Mobile Technologies, Natural Language Processing and Robotic Process Automation.
The robot can connect to BMS of various buildings to get the alert, warnings, and other notification and directly send alarming signals physically to a residence. It can guide users to their destination, with which functionality can help buildings to offload their concierge services.
The solution can also locate its position and correlated the position information to the corresponding BIM system inside the building. Infra-red, thermal or other sensors can be added for water leakage detection.
AI image diagnosis can be done through the 13-megapixel camera for various detections, such as intrusion, falling of elderly or prohibited objects (suitcase/baby stroller on an escalator). Indoor air quality (IAQ) sensors can be added to build a heat map of readings throughout the building.
Moreover, sanitizing devices can be added to the robot, and when it moves around, enabling the device to be effective in multiple locations on the entire floor.
Robots in high demand
According to a recent report, the automated guided vehicles market is expected to reach US$4.6 billion by 2027 witnessing market growth at a rate of 13.47% in the forecast period of 2020 to 2027.
Market research by another firm showed that the global smart cleaning and hygiene market was valued at US$2.63 billion in 2019, and it is expected to reach USD 5.91 billion by 2025, registering a CAGR of 15.7% from 2019 through 2025.
The increasing demand for domestic consumer robots and growing investment in R&D of personal service robots for assistance in various household applications are some of the major factors driving the growth of the smart home cleaning and hygiene market over the forecast period, the report noted.
About the Smart Government Innovation Lab
In 2018, the Government established the Smart Government Innovation Lab to explore hi-tech products such as AI and relevant technologies, including machine learning, big data analytics, cognitive systems and intelligent agent, as well as blockchain and robotics from firms, especially local start-ups.
The Lab is always on the lookout for innovation and technology (I&T) solutions that are conducive to enhancing public services or their operational effectiveness. I&T suppliers are encouraged to regularly visit the Lab’s website to check on the current business and operational needs in public service delivery and propose innovative solutions or product suggestions to address them.
The virtual court for traffic and the e-Challan (official receipt) projects, which were launched earlier this month, will replace current manual challans with electronically-generated digital ones.
The e-Challan initiative was created by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), and the software was developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC). The virtual court is a project under the e-Committee of the Supreme Court and the Department of Justice. It is an online court managed by a virtual Judge, which is not a person but an algorithm, whose jurisdiction can be extended to the entire state and will work round-the-clock.
According to a press release, in a virtual court trial, neither a litigant nor a Judge will have to be physically present in the court for a case. Communication will only be electronic, and the sentencing and payment of the fine or compensation will also be online. Only a single process is allowed. It may be proactive admission of guilt by the accused or proactive compliance of the cause by the defendant on receipt of the summons in electronic form.
Citizens will not have to wait in lines in courts to pay fines or interact face-to-face with the traffic police. The government hopes it will increase the productivity of citizens as well as judicial officers and promote greater accountability and less corruption in the Traffic Police Department.
Currently, the country has nine functioning virtual courts- two courts in Delhi, Haryana (Faridabad), Maharashtra (Pune), Madras, Karnataka (Bengaluru), Maharashtra (Nagpur), Kerala (Kochi), and Assam (Gauhati). Over 3 million cases have been handled by seven virtual courts.
OpenGov Asia reported earlier on a similar project – India’s e-invoice initiative. It is expected to revolutionise the way businesses interact with each other. The e-invoice system, a game-changer for the GST system, was launched in October for businesses with an aggregated turnover of more than IN 5 billion (approximately US$ 67 million) in a financial year.
The government claims it is another milestone in India’s efforts to enhance ease-of-doing-business in the country. The data captured by the invoice registration portal (IRN) will flow seamlessly to the GSTR1 return of the tax-payer on the GST Common Portal, reducing the compliance burden.
Over 49.5 million e-invoices have been generated on the NIC portal by 27,400 tax-payers within the first month of the introduction of the e-Invoice system. Further, an additional 64 million e-way bills were generated during October. Starting with 8.4 million e-invoices after it was launched, the usage gradually picked up. The last day of October saw a generation of as many as 3.5 million e-invoices in a single day. It recorded the generation of 64.1 million e-way bills during October.
Considering the needs of smaller tax-payers, who need to prepare 5-10 B2B invoices in a day, NIC is in the process of developing an offline Excel-based IRN preparation and IRN printing tool. This will allow the group to enter invoice details, prepare files to upload on the NIC IRN portal, download the IRN with QR code, and print the e-invoice with a QR code.
The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) and the Construction Industry Council (CIC) co-hosted SciTech Challenge 2020 on 19 November 2020 to allow promising innovators to develop market-ready solutions to cater to industry demands, and propel the construction sector into the digital era.
Node THL, an incubatee of HKSTP, was crowned champion of the Open Group for the active noise cancelling sensory technology at a construction site while HeightSecure Technologies won at the Student Group for the sensor to detect micro-vibrations of bamboo scaffolding in the competition.
Under the theme of “Sensory Technology for Construction”, SciTech Challenge 2020 brought together start-ups and students with potential users in the construction sector the first time to pitch their products and solutions. In view of accelerating digital transformation in various industries, the construction sector recognises the need to modernise operations to raise efficiency, productivity, quality and safety.
The CEO of HKSTP stated that the Park is committed to unearthing the best innovation and technology talent to propel Hong Kong’s business and society forward with their innovations. SciTech Challenge 2020 has provided prominent young entrepreneurs with the ideal platform to learn and collaborate with construction leaders, develop their ideas into ready-to-deploy solutions and support the industry for wider technology adoption in the future.
The Chairman of CIC said that one of the most important missions of CIC is to drive Hong Kong’s construction industry to embrace innovative thinking and culture, after establishing Construction innovation and Technology Application Centre (CITAC), CIC continues to accelerate the adoption of innovative technologies by different approaches, SciTech Challenge provides a great opportunity to inspire the construction participants for Construction digitalization.
The Chairperson of CITAC Board pointed out in the ceremony that Sensory technology is often considered as the first step for digitalising the physical environment, which forms the foundation for other technology development such as robotics as well as smart cities. That is the very reason why sensory technology for construction was chosen to be the theme of SciTech Challenge 2020.
This year’s competition attracted over 60 group applications from educational institutions and corporates. The contestants gained unique access and collaboration opportunities with leading industry players through a series of training workshops and webinars.
After rounds of screening, the eight finalists were selected to present their innovative ideas at the final presentation on 19 November 2020. This final challenge tested the level of enthusiasm and commitment of the contestants, as they competed for cash prizes and the chance to enjoy fast track to HKSTP’s Science and Technology Entrepreneur Programme (STEP) and win membership of Robotics Catalysing Centre.
More recently, “The 1st Greater Bay Area 5G Application and Innovation Challenge 2020” (AIC 2020) was jointly organised by Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP), The Greater Bay Area (GBA) 5G Industry Alliance (The Alliance), Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) and a leading Chinese telecom concluded with an award ceremony at Hong Kong Science Park on 20 November 2020.
Centred on the theme of “Unleash the power of 5G – Build a Better Life”, AIC 2020 attracted 55 participating teams from Hong Kong, Macao and Guangdong. These teams including students, start-ups and innovators were encouraged to harness the power of 5G and offer innovative solutions in seven areas, to nurture talent and driving industry adoption for Smart City development in the GBA region.
The seven targeted areas are education, entertainment, finance, property management, logistics and transportation, healthcare, and industrial manufacturing.
The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) on Friday launched a mobile application that can identify and block scam messages and phone calls.
The National Crime Prevention Council’s Year-End Crime Prevention Campaign was held virtually on 20 November 2020 whereby the NCPC unveiled the new mobile application – ScamShield. ScamShield compares an incoming call against a list maintained by the Singapore Police Force to determine if the number has been used for illegal purposes and blocks it.
The app uses artificial intelligence to identify keywords in messages from unknown contacts, these messages will be moved into a junk folder created on your phone by the app, just like what email inboxes do.
ScamShield has been jointly developed with the National Crime Prevention Council and Government Technology Agency, is available only on iOS devices and can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store for free.
The app blocks calls from a database of blocked numbers, managed centrally by the National Crime Prevention Council and Singapore Police Force (SPF). Users can report scam messages and calls through the app, which will be added to the database and shared with the police. The council added that ScamShield does not have access to the user’s contact list, location or personal data. The app does not require users to register with their mobile numbers either.
Mr Desmond Tan, Minister of State for Home Affairs, was a special guest at the virtual event on Friday and said that the number of scam cases has been on the rise and asked people to be vigilant when giving personal information to anyone.
ScamShield is easy to deploy in 3 simple steps and has many security features.
Download from App Store
Search for Scamshield on the App Store or click on this link. Do not download applications that are not from the official Apple Store.
Block known scam callers
ScamShield compares an incoming call against a list maintained by the Singapore Police Force to determine if the number has been used for illegal purposes and blocks it.
- Open Settings
- Tap Phone
- Tap Call Blocking & Identification
- Enable Scamshield
Filter Scam SMSes
When you receive an SMS from an unknown contact, ScamShield will determine if the SMS is a scam using an on-device algorithm, and filter the messages to a junk SMS folder. Scam SMSes will be sent to NCPC and SPF for collation. This keeps the app updated and will help protect others from such scam calls and messages. To Enable auto spam SMS filter:
- Open Settings
- Tap Messages
- Tap Unknown & Spam
- Enable Scamshield
Report Scam Messages
You can also report scam messages from other chat apps such as WhatsApp, Wechat, IMO, Viber, etc. You can forward the messages via ScamShield’s in-app reporting function. The Council have also said that the app will be available soon for Android users once some issues have been resolved.
Photo Credit: www.scamshield.sg
A “magic” spray for turning objects into agile millirobots to deliver drugs precisely inside a living body has been developed in joint research led by a scientist from City University of Hong Kong (CityU).
This pioneering approach to creating millirobots hinges on the M-spray, a composited glue-like magnetic spray. A magnetic force can move an object around different surfaces after it has been sprayed with the M-spray. This technology has great potential for biomedical applications, including catheter navigation and precise drug delivery.
The research team is led by Dr Shen Yajing, Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at CityU, and is supported by the National Science Foundation of China and the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong.
The research findings have been published in Science Robotics titled “An agglutinate magnetic spray transforms inanimate objects into millirobots for biomedical applications”.
Composed of polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), gluten and iron particles, M-spray can adhere to the surfaces of one (1D), two (2D) or three-dimensional (3D) objects instantly, steadily and firmly. The film formed on the surface is about 0.1mm to 0.25mm thick, which is thin enough to preserve the original size, form and structure of the objects. The magnetic coating is biocompatible and can be disintegrated into powder when needed.
The team’s M-spray can stick on the targeted object and ‘activate’ the object when driven by a magnetic field, explained Dr Shen. Under the control of a magnetic field, the millirobots can change between different locomotion modes, such as crawling, flipping, walking, and rolling, on surfaces such as glass, skin, wood and sand.
What makes this approach special is the team can reprogramme the millirobot’s locomotion mode on demand.
A PhD student in BME and the co-first author on this paper explained that by fully wetting the solidified M-spray coating to make it stick like glue and then by applying a strong magnetic field, the distribution and alignment direction of the magnetic particles of the M-spray coating can be changed.
This reprogrammable actuation feature is helpful for navigation towards targets. The team demonstrated that the M-spray coated catheter can perform sharp or smooth turns. The impact of blood/liquid flow on the motion ability and stability of the M-spray coated catheter was limited, too, the results showed.
Task-based reprogramming offers promising potential for catheter manipulation in complex areas such as the oesophagus, blood vessels and urethra where navigation is always required.
Another important feature of this technology is that the M-spray coating can be disintegrated into powder on-demand with the manipulation of a magnetic field. All the raw materials of M-spray, namely PVA, gluten and iron particles, are biocompatible. The disintegrated coating can be absorbed or excreted by the human body.
In an in vivo test with rabbits for drug delivery, the team has demonstrated that the M-spray- enabled millirobot can reach the targeted region in the stomach precisely. Researchers disintegrated the coating by applying an oscillating magnetic field.
The controllable disintegration property of M-spray enables the drug to be released in a targeted location rather than scattering in the organ. The hope is that this construction strategy can contribute to the development and application of millirobots in different fields such as active transportation, moveable sensors and devices, particularly for tasks in limited areas of space.
Dr Shen and Dr Wu Xinyu from the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology (SIAT) in the Chinese Academy of Sciences are the corresponding authors of the paper. The other co-authors are Dr Shang Wanfeng from SIAT, and Dr Lu Haojian, Dr Liu Yanting, Yang Liu and Tan Rong, new graduates and PhD students from Dr Shen’s team.
To accelerate the country’s national digital transformation programme, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) organised the Vietnam Open Summit, last week.
The summit gathered 200 participants, including senior officials of ministries and agencies, as well as IT experts from large high-tech corporations. MIC Minister Nguyen Manh Hung noted that IT and digital technology are penetrating every corner of social life. Digital technology needs to be cheap and the key to this is open technology – open architecture, open standards, and open culture.
A press release explained that a lot of countries have announced they plan to only buy open technologies, especially technologies used to build national infrastructure platforms. Vietnam is also following this trend. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, apps like Bluezone and CoMeet were open-source or developed with open-source software.
MIC has also launched the national open data portal, which has registered over 10,000 data sets. Vietnam’s 5G network will also use the open standard Open RAN. Vietnam has chosen to develop open technology, open-source software, and open data for individuals and businesses to join the creation of new values.
Hung called on agencies, businesses, and training establishments to work together to build policies and strategies and develop open platforms and communities.
Open technology strategy
Nearly 3 million organisations and businesses from 70 countries have joined the open-source community. 35 out of 50 top companies in the world sent their teams to participate in the open-source projects in the forum. Vietnam ranks third in Southeast Asia and is among the top 20 in the world in open-source applications, after Singapore (17), and Malaysia (18).
Vietnam began approaching the open technology trend early in the 2000s, but it is still behind some countries, which is attributed to the closed culture, the localisation of data, and lack of interest from large corporations.
Nguyen Trong Duong, the deputy director of the Authority for IT Application, under MIC, said that developing open source projects is a technology trend around the globe. Vietnam should aim to be listed in the top 10 in the rankings on the growth of open-source software.
Talking about the development orientation for the time to come, he noted that Vietnam should develop open technology with a focus on three pillars – developing a Make-in-Vietnam open ecosystem, promoting open culture, and developing an open community.
“In addition to promoting education, training, research, and community development, we also need to develop an open technology ecosystem, accelerate the implementation of policies, and prioritise [the] use of digital products that use open standards,” Duong said.
In the field of training and research, there should be large projects and topics on open-source software. The assessment of the quality of research works will be made based on the contributions of the works to the international community. Regarding the development of the open technology ecosystem, technology firms, especially large ones, need to prioritise the allocation of research and development budgets for open-source projects, the release stated.