February 22, 2024

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Scientists in New Zealand develop smart sleeve for COVID-19

Image credit: www.nzherald.co.nz

Scientists in New Zealand have designed a smart sleeve they say could help reduce the spread of COVID-19 at the country’s border – and now aim to test it in MIQ facilities. The smart garment, created by a University of Auckland spin-out, aims to tackle an important hygiene issue – face-touching. The developers realised that this was a gap in the public health measures, so well publicised by the government, right from the beginning of the pandemic.

While wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing and sneezing or coughing into our sleeves were all vital steps to stop spread, the tech developer said that face-touching remained a difficult problem to address. That is because it is almost always an unconscious or involuntary act and it occurs 15 to 30 times per hour.

The day before last year’s nationwide lockdown, the team mocked up a prototype for a comfortable, washable, “mini sleeve” that is worn on one elbow and under clothes. Over the next few weeks, they filed for IP on their invention, secured funding from a donor and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) therefore forming the tech company.

The key to the design is a programmable sensor that detects elbow flexion and when the hand approaches the face. It uses the well-known principle of haptic feedback to give a vibration alert – like a smartphone or smartwatch – when the hand approaches the face. This makes the user aware that they are about to touch their faces. Thus, the unconscious act becomes conscious, said the developers.

As for the design itself, the team is currently building Bluetooth functionality. It is not necessary but will add real value by allowing remote collection of anonymous data, software updates, push messaging, and incentivisation through graphics to show reduced face touching, they added.

Trials carried out with hospital junior doctors and supermarket staff have proven promising, they said, with 80% of wearers feeling they touched their faces less. The results have both encouraged and allowed developers to further improve the product. They added that they are now at the point where they are ready to work with targeted groups to ensure that the product is optimised to various at-risk settings.

Further trials were planned in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities, an emergency department and at a large medical sales and distribution company. Beyond that, the team is seeking funding to conduct trials amongst the elderly, in rest homes, and with Maori/Pasifika people in their communities. The developers are also exploring the opportunities for airlines and airports and other public transport workers, such as bus drivers.

The team was concentrating initially on the New Zealand market, then aimed to enter the Australian markets when a travel bubble opened. They began discussions about the Asian market and have identified offshore manufacturing. They will also be working with NZ Trade and Enterprise to open these and other markets, such as Europe and the US.

For the developers, there is significant potential to develop the sleeve further with imaging, messaging, and fashion, including co-ordination with re-usable masks. Ultimately, the team hoped their smart sleeve might come to be an addition to personal protective equipment – as well as to counter other infectious diseases, or even some repetitive behaviour disorders.

However, they do not see it displacing any of the important public health measures, but rather they see it as a valuable adjunctive measure. They added that it is important that the government is doing all that it can to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, especially in MIQ facilities and the border.

PARTNER

Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

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CTC Global Singapore, a premier end-to-end IT solutions provider, is a fully owned subsidiary of ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC) and ITOCHU Corporation.

Since 1972, CTC has established itself as one of the country’s top IT solutions providers. With 50 years of experience, headed by an experienced management team and staffed by over 200 qualified IT professionals, we support organizations with integrated IT solutions expertise in Autonomous IT, Cyber Security, Digital Transformation, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Well-known for our strengths in system integration and consultation, CTC Global proves to be the preferred IT outsourcing destination for organizations all over Singapore today.

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Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

SUPPORTING ORGANISATION

SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

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HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

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IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.

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