Demand for air travel around the world collapsed in mid-March 2020, and while it slightly rebounded over the summer, it decreased again with the beginning of the winter months and more national lockdowns across the globe. It seems that demand is expected to remain low for the foreseeable future.
The resumption of domestic and international flights will require many consultations on innovative solutions and risk management measures in responses to COVID-19.
As government and industry restrictions on the aviation industry begin to ease ever so slightly, it is vital that the procedures set out by the appropriate industry bodies and authorities are adhered to consistently to control and manage risks such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
In terms of the passenger journey, every element from the airports of departures and arrival, the flights themselves, and other supply chain operators need to ensure consistent effective risk management.
Restarting aviation following COVID-19 and eliminating risk
Professional bodies such as IATA and Airports Council International -ACI jointly released a publication – Safely Restarting Aviation. This was developed further from the previous publication from IATA “Restarting aviation following COVID-19″. Some of their recommendations included:
- Temperature and symptom screening
- Use of masks and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)
- Physical distancing
- Cleaning and disinfecting infrastructure
- COVID-19 testing and antibody testing
- Immunity passports
- Measures to assist contact tracing
- Measures related to pilot and crew members and their layover experience
This non-exhaustive list just highlights how many more systems and processes need to be put in place, requiring extra resources, finances and manpower. This is where technology can play a role in lessening the burden of the extra procedures required to reduce risk, continue business and further re-open up the aviation industry.
Integrating various COVID-19 Tech Solutions on one platform
Liberty Passage – a total outbreak management system offers solutions for the aviation industry such as temperature and symptom screening, records COVID-19 testing and antibody testing, alerts when risk of COVID-19 exposure is identified, provides an immunity passport for the traveller, and assists processing at immigration and well as offering a track and trace solution – all on one platform.
For the Passengers
The Liberty and Passage Total Outbreak Management System provides travellers with all necessary health and regulatory documentation in one application.
It logs health declarations, provides digital health certificates, records a health status log and has a track and trace function built in.
Liberty Passage will give authorities and travellers the confidence in managing cross-border travel, ensuring health and risk is always monitored and analysed. Liberty Passage ensures customs and immigration can run smoothly in times of crisis.
For Airports and Staff
Liberty Passage can prevent the rapid spread of virus within the airport and airline workforce through self-check temperature logs, and quickly identify employees that have had any long-term exposure to other infected individuals using the Liberty risk status dial.
It is able to dentify high risk employees through analysing data on Liberty Management Dashboard and isolate close contacts while continually monitoring the risk status level of the entire workforce.
The systems constantly review of health records of each employee and overall workforce and has a track and trace function to ensure employee health at all times.
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 travelers confidence when crossing borders and giving authorities confidence when processing foreign visitors at customs.
Technology solutions like Liberty and Passage are needed now to keep economies going, help countries re-open borders to international business travel and tourism.
Airport operators need to remain responsive to manage the evolving pandemic during these uncertain times and be prepared for the upturn when it does come.
For more information on Liberty and Passage Oubtreak Management Solutions please visit: www.libertyandpassage.com
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.
Liberty and Passage is one such solution for this persisting problem. Developed by Access Anywhere, the total outbreak management system combines several cutting edge technologies on one platform that can be used across various sectors including airports, cruise lines, immigration and tourism boards. It is a useful tool for all industries to restart their business.
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
Vietnam has launched a new portal dedicated to dealing with fake news. The Vietnam Anti Fake News Centre (VAFC) was built and is operated by the Ministry of Information and Communications’ Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information.
The organisation has been tasked with receiving online reports of fake news. The portal defines fake news as inaccurate, untested, censored information, appearing incorrectly in content, and spread via the Internet and other media.
According to a news report, the portal spots and discredits fake news and publishes correct information. The portal also actively detects information trends with a large number of sharing and interacting to evaluate, appraise, and label possible fake news. It also offers instructions on how to recognise, prevent, and deal with fake news.
All individuals and organisations can also reflect on fake news through the switchboard 18008108 operated by Viettel Group, with guidance on how to report fake news provided when connecting to the hotline.
At the launching held in Hanoi on 12 January, a representative from the VAFC called for support from the relevant authorities at all levels, especially press agencies, to assess information and detect fake news, helping prevent and repel bad news and maintain a healthy network environment.
In addition to curbing the spread of fake news, the government has created policies for its ministries and private players to detect and block spam. Five major mobile service providers – Viettel, VinaPhone, MobiFone, Vietnamobile, and the virtual network I-Telecom blocked more than 89,600 mobile subscribers spreading spam calls in the last six months of 2020, according to the Department of Telecom under the Ministry of Information and Communications.
In December 2020 alone, the providers handled 17,290 subscribers: 7,844 by Viettel (45%), 7,301 by VinaPhone (42%), 1,155 by MobiFone (7%), 868 by I-Telecom (5%), and 122 by Vietnamobile (1%).
A representative from the department said that in the future, it will work closely with the mobile service suppliers to enhance the public and businesses’ awareness of spam numbers and spam messages, encouraging them to use registered SIM cards.
Spam calls and messages are delivered mostly to advertise products and services, such as offers to sell houses, apartments, and condotels, and include invitations to buy insurance policies, use financial services, and register for English training courses.
The subjects that deliver spam calls and messages use sophisticated technical measures that change regularly to deceive appropriate agencies. Earlier last July, the department coordinated with the subscribers to launch a number of technical solutions using big data and machine learning to identify subscribers with signs of spreading spam calls and messages.
In August 2020, the government issued a decree on the measures to prevent and reduce spam messages, emails, and calls. These included building anti-spam systems and developing criteria to identify spam. Monitoring and sharing information and databases on sources of spam and collecting and handling complaints.
Further, the government claimed it would supervise advertising service provision via text messages, emails, and calls; prevent and revoke electronic addresses spreading spam; strengthen domestic coordination and international cooperation; and raise awareness about spam prevention.
A team of physicists, engineers and chemists from across local institutions, led by Chair Professor Wang YAO of Research Division for Physics & Astronomy under Faculty of Science, The University of Hong Kong (HKU), working on the research of fundamentals and emerging technologies of two-dimensional (2D) materials, has recently been awarded funding of over HK$80 million from the Areas of Excellence (AoE) Scheme 2020/21 (Ninth Round) under the University Grants Committee (UGC).
This will facilitate the exploration of fundamental physics in the new realm of two-dimensional atomic crystals and their van der Waals heterostructures with the abundant quantum degrees of freedom (e.g., spin, valley); and to explore quantum engineering of materials and devices in the unprecedented atomically thin 2D geometries, to revolutionise electronics, optoelectronics and photonics.
The team of leading experts of 2D materials in Hong Kong were assembled to capitalise on this great opportunity. This AoE project is an inter-institutional and interdisciplinary one covering physics, applied physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, comprising 17 scientists from HKU, City University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
Professor Yao stated that the team is grateful to UGC for the recognition of their past achievements through the award of this funding, and most importantly for this opportunity to work together as a team to achieve something bigger in this exciting area.
Dean of Science Professor Matthew EVANS extended his congratulations to the Project Coordinator and Co-Principal Investigators of this inter-institutional research project. He said, “I am most delighted to see the concerted efforts of our top-notch physicists and their collaborators in diverse disciplines on developing fundamental research on 2D materials, outracing other cutting-edge research and being recognised through the award of funding in this vigorous exercise.”
The development of 2D materials and beyond
The rapid development of information technology has been based on the continuous scaling down of microelectronic devices that improves cost, performance and power. This trend, empirically summarised as Moore’s law, is coming to an end because of the intrinsic scale limit of silicon microelectronics.
The new era of innovation will be profoundly different, calling for new material systems to host even smaller devices under new geometry, new heterogeneity, new quantum degrees of freedom to carry information, and new physical principles to process and store information.
Two-dimensional materials have a great potential to revolutionise microelectronics and information technology. The variety of 2D materials feature a wide range of material properties from metal, semiconductors, insulators to magnets and superconductors, as well as exotic physics associated with electrons’ quantum degrees of freedom (spin & valley) that could be exploited to encode and process information more efficiently.
Their extreme thinness – which is just a few atoms at most – promises the ultimate miniaturisation of devices and unparalleled control of materials and device functions. Moreover, 2D materials feature unprecedented flexibility in their assembly into heterostructures, through which new materials and device functionalities may emerge.
This project aims to explore these exciting opportunities for revolutionising electronics, optoelectronics and photonics, through a concerted effort addressing the fundamental issues from physics, materials synthesis to device engineering based on 2D materials.
Led by pioneers in the field of 2D materials, the team will seek to sustain Hong Kong’s edge in the field through basic and applied research, with a long-term goal of developing new prototype devices that will have application and commercialisation potentials for Hong Kong.
The role of social media platforms in advancing the cause of government organisations has been amplified with the onset of security and safety protocols rolled out to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Agencies in Indonesia have long realised the advantage of tapping into social media to disseminate information to the public. Banking on this advantage, the Marine and Fisheries Research and Human Resources Agency (BRSDM), a department under the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, recently held a virtual forum on public relations (PR) aimed at optimising the use of social media in the realm of information dissemination. There, the Ministry underscored the importance of having a change in mindset. There must be a need to look beyond conventional media and learn to adapt to other forms of digital media to improve operations.
During the event, Kusdiantoro, the Secretary of the Agency, said that by utilising social media, organisations across the country can unlock many opportunities to inform the general public of the undertakings and milestones achieved by the Ministry.
To emphasise, he cited earlier reports that showed Indonesia is among the top 10 countries which spend the most time on the internet. According to the Digital 2020 Global Digital Review published by Hootsuite and social marketing agency We Are Social, internet users in Indonesia in the age range of 16 – 64 years old spent an average of 7 hours and 59 minutes surfing the internet every day during 2019. This is longer than the average time recorded globally at 6 hours and 43 minutes.
The Secretary added: “The high use of social media in Indonesia is a great opportunity that can be used by government public relations to broadcast and socialise the work achievements of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, especially from BRSDM.”
To fully reap the benefits of utilising social media platforms, the Secretary noted that human resources and officials in PR must have an in-depth understanding of how the internet and social media work. It is likewise key to have a broad understanding of how to effectively manage these channels. These actions will allow the organisation to understand key concepts and data related to government policies and reforms that they can share with the public.
This is of significance to the Marine and Fishery Ministry which currently has 9,202 employees across its various departments. These do not include fisheries instructors, students and other key figures. The Secretary added that without proper publication, marine and fishery activities will not be optimised.
The expanded role of public relations
Other officials present during the online event shared the same sentiments. Tb Ardi Januar, the Special Staff of the Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries for Public Communication Media Relations, stressed that the role of PR is crucial in following the mandate laid down by Indonesian President Joko Widodo for the Ministry to enhance communication ties between stakeholders and fishermen.
He explained that to attain this objective, the Ministry must keep its communication lines open to key players in the industry. It is also equally crucial to be able to effectively convey the policies of the Ministry to the public to strengthen public transparency and accountability. He added: “Public relations must also be able to compare institutions so that the public is well informed and able to counter issues, as well as clarifying controversial issues, bridging things that are unclear and straightening confusing information –that is the role of public relations.”
With the proliferation of new social media channels and citizen journalism, streamlining public relations is made easier. The trick is to use these platforms innovatively and creatively. In boosting social media presence, key points to be prioritised include helping disseminate the government’s flagship programmes in infrastructure and the economy.
Initiating reforms in public relations is only one of the undertakings set forth by government agencies in Indonesia. In an earlier report by OpenGov Asia, the Ministry of Communication and Information noted that it is developing several e-commerce platforms to assist Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for digitalisation has become more apparent and necessary. Government agencies are increasingly adopting innovative schemes to boost transactions and at the same time, prevent the further spread of the virus. This scenario is seen particularly in the healthcare sector where authorities continue to innovate in an attempt to contribute to safety and health protocols.
The Provincial Government of Davao Oriental is in on this initiative. According to a statement, the province is set to implement the Davao Oriental Digital Contact Tracing System (DAVOR-DCTS). Once adopted, the project shall require all residents and non-residents to present their Quick Response or QR Codes when transacting with various private and public establishments in the province.
Dr Reden Bersaldo, Provincial Task Force on COVID-19 Action Officer, made this announcement during a recently held online briefing. He emphasised that this new programme will be a “supplementary tool” not just for contact tracing but also for regulating the influx of tourists.
He added that the distribution of cards equipped with unique QR Codes had already been initiated this month through the help of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office or the PDRRMO.
The cards had been distributed to 10 municipalities and one city in the province. The Action Officer said: “Those who had already received their QR codes were Davao Oriental residents who were included in the manual registration which started in November 2020.”
Of the total number of individuals initially registered under the system, residents aged 15 to 65 were considered as Authorised Persons Outside Residence (APOR).
While the release and adoption of QR Codes was a digital concept, the Task Force Officer mentioned that initial registration was done manually as not all have access to the internet or own mobile phones and computers. He stated that “this way, even those in the hinterlands will be served.” During the first batch of registration, barangay workers collected pertinent and personal details of residents.
As to succeeding registrations, those who were not able to register manually may secure their QR Codes via online means. The provincial government advised that the link for the online registration shall be uploaded to its social media pages.
Residents and non-residents of Davao Oriental may register to get their QR Codes. These include persons under 15 years old and above 65 years old and also those who are residents of the Davao Oriental but are currently outside the province.
Non-residents like tourists may also register with the provincial government. This is because authorities at quarantine checkpoints at provincial borders will start to require QR Codes for travellers starting next month.
Following this announcement, the provincial government said it will release an executive order mandating owners of business establishments, as well as public and private offices to participate in the QR Code system. These establishments must be able to set up their own QR code scanning applications to be provided by the province. Authorities were quick to add that all data gathered through the programme shall be subject to and covered by the Data Privacy Act of 2012.
A similar undertaking was launched recently by another local government unit in the Philippines. As reported by OpenGov Asia, the Quezon City government announced that residents of the locality shall be entitled to city identification (ID) cards containing necessary information that shall be integrated into the city’s existing database. These IDs, while initially intended to be used for all upcoming projects and social assistance programmes of the city, shall also be utilised in determining the citizens that shall be prioritised once the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines begins.
The astronomical rates of transmission and a lack of a sure cure for COVID-19 till now has been reason enough for global leaders and citizens to have grave concerns. With the promise of a slew of vaccines, this panic has been somewhat assuaged but extreme caution is still the order of the day.
To their credit, many countries were quick to realise technology’s potential in effectively managing the impact of the virus. Tech giants across the globe supported governments by launching AI-powered solutions and applications to help citizens control risk.
Solutions had to be created under extreme pressure and absurdly tight timelines, leading to phenomenal creativity. Here are some of the significant ways in which technology has and can help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic:
Using AI to Identify, Track and Forecast Outbreaks
AI-based solutions have been designed to detect an outbreak with the premise that the better one can track the virus, the better chances of dealing with it. Such solutions can detect an outbreak by analysing news reports, social media platforms and government platforms.
Canadian startup BlueDot’s, San Francisco’s Metabiota, and Boston’s health map are few examples where the power of AI was harnessed to warn people of the threat days before the WHO issued its public warnings.
Liberty and Passage by Access Anywhere is a prime example of this technological application. Developed by Access Anywhere, it is a total outbreak management system that combines a plethora of cutting-edge technologies on a single platform. Liberty & Passage is an outbreak management solution for individuals, organisations and the entire travel industry.
Extremely versatile, it can be deployed across various sectors including airports, cruise lines, immigration and tourism boards. Its ease of use, flexibility and scalability means it can be a significant tool for organisations in almost any sector to restart their business safely.
Using AI to Help Diagnose the Virus
Infervision, an AI company had launched a coronavirus AI solution that helps front line healthcare workers detect and monitor the disease efficiently. It also has the capacity to improve the speed of a CT diagnosis. Alibaba has built an AI-powered diagnosis system, which is 96% accurate in diagnosing the virus in seconds.
Using Drones to Deliver Medical Supplies
Drone delivery is considered the safest and fastest ways to deliver medical supplies during a disease outbreak. For example, Terra Drones is using their unmanned aerial vehicles to transport medical samples and quarantine material with minimal risk. Additionally, drones are being used to patrol public spaces and track non-compliance of quarantine mandates.
Using Chatbots To Share Information
Chatbots are an effective way for people to get specific information and advice. For instance, Tencent operates WeChat, where people can access free online health consultation services. Similarly, the travel and tourism sector has immensely benefited from the use of chatbots.
Using AI to Identify Infected Individuals
As the COVID-19 virus transitioned from an outbreak to a full-on pandemic, China’s sophisticated surveillance system used facial recognition technology and temperature detection software from SenseTime to identify people who have developed a fever and were likely to have been infected by the virus.
Technological innovations like ‘Smart Helmets’ are also being used by officials in Sichuan province to identify people with raised temperatures. Additionally, the Chinese Government’s monitoring system, Health Code, uses big data to identify and assess the risk of each individual based on their travel history.
Innovation in technology is helping to mitigate the impact of the current pandemic by keeping people informed and abreast with the latest developments and encouraging them to take all the necessary precautions.
With the discovery of the new COVID-19 strain and experts declaring the pandemic to be a recurring feature in the future one can only see technologies like AI and Machine learning playing a pertinent role in keeping people and organisations up and running.
A three-fold improvement in the efficiency of solar-to-hydrogen energy conversion can facilitate solar energy harvesting technology, according to environmental scientists at City University of Hong Kong (CityU).
This research outcome could contribute to tackling the global energy shortage and provide new insights into the development of solar-to-fuel materials for photocatalytic applications in the emerging field of hydrogen technology.
The research team led by Dr Sam Hsu Hsien-yi, Assistant Professor in the School of Energy and Environment (SEE) at CityU, has developed novel lead-free bismuth-based hybrid organic-inorganic perovskites (HOIPs) with a semiconductor heterojunction structure.
The heterojunction structure could serve as a driving force to enhance the charge carrier transportation which is beneficial for hydrogen production under visible-light irradiation without the addition of co-catalysts such as platinum or ruthenium.
The research is featured as the cover of the prestigious international journal Advanced Functional Materials under the title “In-situ formation of bismuth-based perovskite heterostructures for high-performance co-catalyst-free photocatalytic hydrogen evolution”.
In the past few years, HOIPs have been widely used in solar energy conversion because of their remarkable photoelectric effects and extraordinary photovoltaic performance.
However, their application in the field of photocatalysis is limited. Besides, most comprehensively developed HOIPs comprise toxic metal lead, raising concerns about environmental health threats.
“As a result, we would like to construct a lead-free HOIP material that can drive the photocatalytic hydrogen production without a noble-metal co-catalyst,” said Dr. Hsu.
In the process of exploring and developing their application for the production of photocatalytic hydrogen, Dr. Hsu’s team discovered a straightforward method for constructing a junction structure, which led to improved photocatalytic activity.
They employed time-resolved photoluminescence spectra (TRPL) to characterise the materials. From the TRPL result, the charge transfer of the HOIP material with heterostructure exhibited a longer lifetime than the material without the heterostructure. The longer lifetime indicates a reduction of nonradiative recombination in the heterostructure.
Therefore, the in-situ formation of the heterostructure benefits photocatalytic performance. The result shows improved efficiency by three-fold and a more stabilized solar-induced hydrogen evolution for the perovskite heterojunctions, even without the addition of any noble metal co-catalyst under visible light irradiation.
Their next step is to improve hydrogen production performance. Dr. Hsu believed that in the long run, hydrogen would become one of the major energy sources. He hoped that this research would help to harvest solar energy in response to the global challenge of the energy crisis.
According to a recent article, Hong Kong and China-listed solar-energy stocks rose sharply on 23 December 2020, extending the sector’s momentum as investors bet on strong demand and favourable policies.
The upbeat trend came after Chinese authorities last week issued a draft regulation that would allow solar glass manufacturers to increase capacity free of restrictions.
Globally, an increasing number of countries have pledged to achieve carbon neutrality in the next few decades amid the falling costs of solar equipment and growing pressure to cut emissions.
It is expected that the trend to support global demand growth of more than 28% for solar power in 2021. And Chinese companies, which account for more than 70% of many key solar-energy equipment’s supply capacities globally, are poised to benefit from such a demand boom.