In Hong Kong, the sewage monitoring technology developed by the HKU multidisciplinary team led by Professor Tong Zhang of the Department of Civil Engineering has been incorporated as one of the key components of the control strategy for fighting against COVID-19 since December 2020.
The sewage test results have provided a basis for statutory public health action in identifying buildings and places for compulsory testing operations to discover infected individuals. The systematic routine sewage monitoring programme of EPD and DSD now covers over 100 regular sampling sites in Hong Kong, providing early warning signals of COVID-19 re-emergence for over five million people.
In light of the emerging highly transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants worldwide, the team has recently developed an effective and rapid method for identification and quantification of different SARS-CoV-2 variants in sewage using allele-specific RT-qPCR based technology.
With primer-probe sets designed by the team and published in the literature, the new method can detect multiple unique and specific mutation sites of different types of variants and identify the type of variants with a high level of accuracy. Compared with genomic sequencing, this method has a much shorter turnover time (from at least two days reduce to a few hours) and can serve as rapid screening of different variants for quick follow-up actions.
Recently, the team applied this new method and successfully identified the Delta variant (first identified in India) in a sewage sample collected on 21 June 2021 from Tai Po. The sewage test results served to alert the first introduction of the Delta variant in local community sewage one day before the case was being reported on 23 June through the clinical test, and three days before this case was confirmed as the Delta variant carrier by genomic sequencing in the afternoon of 25 June.
After checking the data, Professor Zhang reported to the Government in the late afternoon of 22 June that “HKU’s test results about the mutations using Allele-specific RT-qPCR indicated that it is Delta (Indian) variant with a very high probability.”
The government then issued the Compulsory Testing Notice (due to sewage positive signal) in the afternoon of June 23, followed by the Restriction-Testing Declaration (due to the “preliminary positive” case) in the evening of the same day.
Professor Zhang further commented on the allele-specific RT-qPCR technology they used, compared with the virus genome sequencing method, and stated, “The results of applying the new sewage testing method for variants is very encouraging, proving that it is possible to use the allele-specific RT-qPCR technology for rapid detection of variant types in sewage. Needless to say, the genome sequencing of patients is still needed for transmission analysis in the later stage.”
The current practice of sewage surveillance in Hong Kong has demonstrated its significant role in the fight against COVID by providing early warning signals of COVID-19 outbreak, monitoring estates with infection clusters, and tracking the development trend of the community outbreak.
With the collation of more comprehensive data in the past months, the research team is working together with the Government on choosing a more suitable sewage sampling time, simplifying the sample pre-treatment procedure, increasing the sampling and testing capacity, developing new methods for variants, and integrating clinical/ epidemiological data, to further develop the sewage surveillance system into a more powerful tool to facilitate decision-making in fighting the SARS-CoV-2.
Such systems will also be useful as a part of the future smart city to protect people from known pathogens and emerging pathogens. Professor Zhang noted that sewage may tell the health of a city, and the team is learning how to listen to it.”
The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and Singapore Association of Convention & Exhibition Organisers & Suppliers (SACEOS) released the MICE Sustainability Roadmap, which outlines specific goals and plans for raising sustainability standards throughout the MICE sector in Singapore over the coming years.
The Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions (MICE) industry is a type of tourism travel in which groups of people are brought together for a specific reason, usually well in advance. On the other hand, the MICE market refers to a subset of people who plan, arrange, and facilitate conferences, seminars, exhibitions, and other events.
Part of STB’s overarching plan to develop a sustainable tourism sector is the use of such roadmaps, which direct businesses in the sector to achieve specific sustainability goals. Following the launch of the Hotel Sustainability Roadmap earlier this year, the MICE Sustainability Roadmap is the second such project.
The Singapore Green Plan 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations (UN) serve as the roadmap’s guiding principles. Three goals are listed in the MICE Sustainability Roadmap to help Singapore become one of the most environmentally-friendly MICE destinations in Asia Pacific:
- By 2023, create a set of industry-acceptable sustainability standards with the goal of having them recognised internationally by 2024.
- For all six purpose-built MICE venues and 80% of SACEOS members to get internationally or nationally recognised sustainability certification, or both, by 2025.
- To attain net-zero emissions by 2050 in accordance with the country’s net-zero aim, the Singapore MICE sector must first track waste and carbon emissions by 2023, reduce waste in line with the Singapore Green Plan by 2030, and reduce waste overall by 2050.
The MICE Sustainability Committee (MSComm), established by STB and SACEOS in August 2022 to advance sustainability capabilities and create awareness of sustainability initiatives and best practices, will help the industry adopt sustainable practices and meet these goals.
The dedication to sustainability follows a robust MICE rebound in the wake of Singapore’s borders being reopened in April this year and a rising desire for environmentally friendly business travel. More importantly, the industry is aware of how crucial it is to lessen the environmental impact of MICE events.
With STB and SACEOS leading the charge and offering support as necessary to further develop a sustainable business events landscape in Singapore, the MICE Sustainability Roadmap will ensure that MICE players move forward in pursuing relevant and achievable sustainability goals that are tracked at appropriate milestones.
Meanwhile, OpenGov Asia recently reported that the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) of Singapore is working with a large American technology company to address climate change-related challenges and enhance the sustainability of digital technologies.
The cooperation aims to hasten the local and international development of software applications and solutions to assist businesses in using their resources more efficiently.
The tech giant and IMDA will exchange best practices, standards, learnings, and certification pathways for accurate measurement and reporting of carbon emissions resulting from software applications. Through this relationship, the nation hopes to speed up the application of the ideas and resources needed to create green technologies.
According to IMDA, Southeast Asia is well-positioned for the region to take the lead in digital sustainability. This collaboration will produce cutting-edge digital sustainability solutions that can be used by multinational corporations, bringing about positive change for the environment worldwide and ensuring a sustainable future for all.
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and a US-based engineering company signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish the Centre for Humanistic Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CHAiR) for translational research with the goal of advancing the well-being of humanity.
The partnership aims to integrate the university’s interdisciplinary research capabilities and the company’s well-known humanoid robotics platform to explore technology applications. Sophia, the company’s most advanced human-like robot, will work with PolyU researchers to enhance the contribution of AI and robotic technology for social and commercial benefits.
Research into and applications of AI and robotics are essential to the advancement of industry. As an interdisciplinary research and development centre, CHAiR brings cross-faculty collaborations in research fields such as AI, the internet of things (IoT), neuroscience, design, computer science, mechanical engineering, material science, healthcare, and the humanities.
In collaboration with the company, CHAiR supports innovation and entrepreneurship in Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area. The Dean of Graduate School, Chair Professor of Distributed and Mobile Computing, and Otto Poon Charitable Foundation Professor in Data Science will serve as the principal investigator and administrative director of CHAiR. He will also serve alongside the CEO and Founder of the company as a co-chair of the Centre’s steering committee.
The MoU was signed by the Vice President (Research and Innovation) of PolyU and the CEO and Founder of the company. It was Witnessed by the President of PolyU and the Executive Director of the firm.
During the signing ceremony, Sophia made conversation with the guests. She said, “I look forward to learning many new skills and abilities. With your help, maybe I can learn how to be a nurse, a teacher, a concierge, a librarian. You can teach me how to be a better companion, a more skilful artist, a funnier entertainer.”
Meanwhile, the company’s CEO and Founder noted that the new centre is perfectly positioned to refine and improve the performance of Sophia-class robots in ways that promote the growth of a new service robot industry. As soon as the industry begins expanding, investment in improved hardware, software and manufacturing technologies will as well, he noted.
The President of PolyU noted that academia-industry collaboration is one of the most productive mechanisms for creating and implementing innovations. There is tremendous untapped potential for humanistic social robots. Let us aspire that CHAiR will be a major catalyst for the onset of the age of humanistic robots.
The Dean of Graduate School, Chair Professor of Distributed and Mobile Computing, who is also Director of the Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence of Things (RIAIoT), said the Institute has been working on practical solutions to key challenges in advanced AIoT technologies and applications.
He noted that the natural evolution for RIAIoT is to partner with the engineering firm to address increasingly ambitious opportunities in humanistic AI and social robotics. CHAiR will play a unique and key role to combine the firm’s knowledge with world-class academics here at PolyU.
The engineering company is an AI and robotics company dedicated to creating socially intelligent machines that enrich the quality of our lives. Sophia is the world’s first robot citizen and the first robot Innovation Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme.
For inbound travellers’ arrival details and health declaration checklist, eTravel is a new contact tracking platform that replaces the One Health Pass and e-Arrival card in the Philippines. E-travel can now be accessed at the official website.
The new system is easy to use as travellers coming in can sign up with their personal profiles, travel information, and health declarations. When finishing this step, the user will get a QR code that is unique to them. This service is free, but people need to sign up at least 3 days before they arrive in the Philippines.
E-travel is developed by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and is a joint initiative with the Bureau of Immigration (BI), Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), Bureau of Customs (BOC), Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
The interconnection, data-sharing, and synergy of all the many departments that are divided into several silos will now be combined into a single system that will be looking at a single point in time, according to DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy. Hence, it will make it easier for the people to interact with the government at the same time.
Meanwhile, to promote a unified government approach to E-Governance, the DICT’s Office of the Undersecretary for E-Government (OUEG) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with partner government entities.
The Landbank of the Philippines, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Government Service Insurance System, the Social Security System, and the Mindanao Development Authority are all partners in this endeavour.
Through its efforts to digitally change government processes and government agencies, the DICT hopes to improve data standards and data governance, allowing for data harmonisation and coordination throughout the government.
The effort includes the creation, deployment, and integration of systems for Department flagship programmes such E-Local Government Units (ELGU), E-Government Applications (EGovApp), E-Govpay, E-Travel, and E-Cloud.
The MoU establishes the partner agencies as key players in the pursuit of digital transformation and e-governance. Since DICT considers harmony to be the foundation of clarity. Therefore, the goals of these initiatives are twofold: to construct a government that is enabled by ICT and to capacitate its development.
Furthermore, through the Career Certificates Scholarship Programme, a multinational technology business will provide free professional training to Filipinos. This programme is presently being provided by the DICT through the ICT Literacy and Competency Development Bureau (ILCDB).
With the help of this career certificates programme, appropriate skill development and tooling are now easier to obtain. By closing the digital divide and widening chances for Filipinos, the DICT seeks to expand ICT opportunities.
The agency urges Filipinos to apply for the scholarship and benefit from the free professional training created by one of the biggest software companies in the world.
The course can award credentials in IT support, project management, user experience (UX) design, and data analytics. Through this programme, Filipinos can gain new skills and connect with top employers while preparing for a new career in the rapidly expanding ICT industry.
The process is also practical for online education. Participants must be at least 18 years old, residents of and citizens of the Philippines, and capable of finishing the online course using their own device or gadget to be eligible to apply for the scholarship.
Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, helped launch construction of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Observatory’s SKA-Low telescope at Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, the CSIRO Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory on Wajarri Country in Western Australia (WA).
The global SKA Observatory (SKAO) announced the start of on-site construction activity for both their telescopes, SKA-Low in Australia and SKA-Mid in South Africa. The SKA-Low telescope will be the first mega-science project co-hosted in Australia and will explore the Universe in more detail than ever before, transforming the current understanding of the cosmos and benefitting society through global collaboration and innovation.
The SKA project aims to help Australian expertise remain at the forefront of discovery as an example collaboration to drive innovation, especially the collaboration of the Wajarri Yamaji, Traditional Owners and native title holders of the telescope site.
The progress of the SKA project over the past two decades has allowed researchers to see further into the universe than ever before. It has driven innovation and inspired generations both new and old through the development of technologies to solve great challenges facing our planet by better understanding the universe.
The start of SKA-Low construction on site is the culmination of many dreams, both within CSIRO and the global astronomy community, and the next step on this journey of discovery. CSIRO is the SKAO’s operations partner for the SKA-Low telescope in Australia and holds multiple contracts for SKA-Low construction activities.
The SKA-Low telescope will spread across 74 km end-to-end at the WA observatory site alongside existing instruments including CSIRO’s ASKAP radio telescope.
The SKA-Low Telescope Director stated that the SKAO was pleased to have established operations and engineering centres in Australia, where SKAO works closely with CSIRO as operations partner. She noted that CSIRO has been involved in the SKA project since its inception and have been leaders in radio astronomy science and technology for more than 70 years. The SKA Observatory welcomes this partnership with CSIRO to build and operate the SKA-Low telescope in Western Australia, she added.
CSIRO is also a foundation member in other key SKA project partners in Australia, including the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre and the Australian SKA Regional Centre.
More about CSIRO’s role in the SKA project
Australia is a member of the international organisation established to build and operate the world’s most powerful radio astronomy facility, the SKA Observatory (SKAO). The SKA Observatory will consist of two radio-telescopes, one in Australia (SKA-Low), and one in South Africa (SKA-Mid). The two telescopes will observe the sky at different radio frequencies and complement each other scientifically.
CSIRO will be the operating partner for the SKA-Low telescope, as well as hosting the telescope itself at Inyarrimanha Ilgari Bundara, our Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia.
SKA-Low will consist of an array of 131,072 Christmas tree-shaped antennas, grouped in 512 stations, each with 256 antennas. Several of these antenna stations will be placed in the centre and the rest will span out along three spiral arms, stretching 74 kilometres end to end. SKA-Low will operate at frequencies between 50 and 350 MHz, like FM radio and TV broadcasts.
In addition to its role as operations partner and managers of the telescope site, CSIRO will also contribute to the construction of the SKA-Low Telescope. CSIRO:
- Led the infrastructure design work and is collaborating with industry partners to manage the site infrastructure construction process. This includes its work with industry partner Aurecon to manage the infrastructure contracts in Australia, including the contract with an Australian-based business.
- Is working with university and industry partners to oversee the installation of SKA-Low antenna stations.
- Is managing the assembly, integration, and verification process – the work to connect and check all the individual sub systems and products are working correctly – together with international institutions.
- Is working with international research institutions to develop the central signal processing system of the telescope, the backend of the telescope that takes the signals from each antenna station and combines them before sending that information to the science data processing system.
- Is working with university partners to design the science data processing system, the supercomputer software that takes the data from the telescope and outputs the images astronomers use to study the universe.
With only three taps on their smartphone, computer, or tablet, caregivers of injured service members can access more than 2,000 materials from the U.S. Defense Health Agency (DHA).
A caregiver for her husband who was in the U.S. Army, Jamela Davis said, “It offers you the flexibility so whenever you need to locate that information, whatever you’re searching for, it’s right there at your fingertips.”
The eCRD is perfect for the more than 300,000 caregivers of wounded soldiers and veterans, Jamela continued. “Although using a phone for navigation is so simple, some people find it a little scary. It is therefore a useful tool to have.”
DHA stated that users can quickly locate the category they’re looking for by looking at the table of contents when they first access the eCRD, they can view the list of available materials from there.
An electronic platform called eCRD is based on the National Resource Directory (NRD). For military personnel, veterans, family members, and caregivers, the NRD is a database of verified services that aid in recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration. The Departments of Labor, Veterans Affairs, and Defense are all involved in the effort.
One of its user-friendly aspects, according to Jonathan Morris with DHA’s Warrior Care Recovery Care Programmes Operations, is that when they update the NRD with new resources, they can be added to the eCRD right away with just a check box.
Other advances in the eCRD include straightforward navigation and link-based search, little scrolling, printing of single pages of text, and hyperlinks to each resource.
More than 300,000 free copies of the Caregiver Resource Directory have been given since it was first published in hard copy in 2015 and is updated yearly.
There are a variety of supports and resources available to caregivers and their families if they need to relocate so that the transition can be as seamless as possible.
By location, there are direct links to each of the military service relocation programmes, as stated by Morris.
He noted that the NRD and the eCRD connect moving caregivers and their families to programmes and agencies that assist them to settle in and provide virtual support through groups like the American Red Cross Military and Veterans Caregiver Network.
Caring for someone can be a fulltime commitment, so caregivers need to take care of themselves so they can keep doing their jobs and not get burned out.
Jamela added that she’s always looking for ways to rest and relax. This helps keep her mental health and well-being as a caregiver in good shape.
She has also used the Veteran Spouse Network and gone on caregiver retreats at an equestrian therapy ranch that has programmes for wounded warriors and their families. These programmes give her more “tools” for taking care of herself.
Also, emergencies can happen, and sometimes caregivers need help right away. Challenges for other caregivers could include anything from mental health to employment to education. Hence, caregivers need so much, and they just don’t know what kind of situation they will be in.
Users can also email the NRD and the content team will help them find resources even if those resources are in local communities churches.
Access to health care for caregivers, guides to community resources, caregiver resources for family members with traumatic brain injury, VA speciality resources for caregivers, and mental health support services for children of caregivers are the top five resources searched for this year on the eCRD and NRD.
Taiwan has successfully developed Point-of-Care (PoC) to provide rapid diagnosis of diabetic retinopathy (DR) and diabetic macular oedema (DME). The PoC machine is a winner in the software/services category of the 2022 R&D 100 Awards. Taiwan’s most prominent high-tech applied research institutions claimed that the AI-assisted system is the first in the world and can be integrated into handheld and desktop fundus cameras commonly used in hospitals and clinics to detect DR and DME symptoms.
Using the PoC system, DR and DME can be diagnosed in as little as 5 to 10 seconds. The machine then assesses image quality instantly before diagnosis to avoid AI misinterpretation. Based on fundus images, it marks lesions and assigns severity levels to them. Furthermore, the Point-of-Care AI-DR can detect 14 other common ocular fundus abnormalities such as retinal diseases, blood vessel changes, and optic nerve diseases.
Due to its ease of use, general practitioners can conduct early screening for DR and DME complications. It can also determine whether a patient should see an ophthalmologist. Screening through primary care physicians raises screening rates, lowers treatment costs, and allow patients early detection outcome.
According to the International Diabetes Foundation, 537 million adults aged 20 to 79 worldwide had diabetes in 2021. The Foundation expects the number to rise to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045. According to the National Eye Institute, more than half of people with diabetes will develop DR, and one in every 15 will develop DME.
Point-of-Care AI-DR improves diabetes health monitoring and management by identifying lesions and severity stages of DR and DME. The PoC also lowers the risks of vision loss or blindness caused by diabetic eye complications. In addition, tracking changes in fundus symptoms over time allows physicians to gain a thorough understanding of a patient’s diabetes development status. The function is critical for diabetes management because the AI PoC can monitor changes in fundus symptoms. This is more reliable than the usual tracking of blood sugar levels which can change right before patient examination.
“Point-of-Care AI-DR is a collaboration result of human and artificial intelligence. The machine works based on ophthalmologists’ expertise and AI analysis. In addition, it uses complementary medical AI models to perform individual diagnostic tasks such as classifying and detecting symptoms to improve overall interpretation efficiency,” said Dr Pang-An Ting, Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) General Director of Information and Communications Research Laboratories.
To develop Point-of-Care AI-DR, ITRI enlisted 50 ophthalmologists to collect and label 150,000 fundus images as training data for robust AI models. As a result, Point-of-Care AI-DR outperforms existing products in terms of sensitivity (>98%) and specificity (>96%) in DR diagnosis. Moreover, the outcome allows non-ophthalmologists to perform rapid point-of-care DR screening in the same way that ophthalmologists do. It can support all existing fundus cameras worldwide and be used to build various solutions, such as edge AI systems, standalone web applications, and private/public cloud-based services.
The detection provided is in multiple areas such as locating lesions (microaneurysms, haemorrhages, soft exudates, and hard exudates), detecting anatomical landmarks of the optic disc and macular area, classifying the severity levels of diabetic retinopathy (from none to severe) and producing binary classifications to assist general practitioners in providing ophthalmologists with data-informed decisions.
Licensing is available for Point-of-Care AI-DR.
Laser light is used in the relatively new imaging technology known as photoacoustic microscopy (PAM) to cause ultrasonic vibrations in tissue. Like how ultrasound imaging functions, an image of the tissue’s architecture can then be produced using these ultrasonic vibrations and a computer that processes them.
Lihong Wang, the Bren Professor of Medical Engineering and Electrical Engineering at Caltech, has created PAM technologies recently that can visualise changing blood flow in the brain, identify specific cancer cells, and detect diseased tissue.
However, a drawback of PAM’s high resolution has been its shallow depth of field, which prevents it from focusing on more than one layer of tissue at once. This layer can only be as thin as one skin cell, or around 30 micrometres, with a resolution of one to two micrometres.
The device must refocus above or below the plane it is now observing to perceive objects above or below it. Consider someone donning reading glasses to do a crossword puzzle as a point of comparison.
The needle-shaped beam photoacoustic microscopy, or NB-PAM, that Wang and his research team created has a depth of field that is roughly 14 times larger than what was previously possible. As a result, NB-PAM can better photograph samples with uneven surfaces and produce 3-D pictures of samples without having to refocus.
According to Rui Cao, lead author and postdoctoral scholar research associate in medical engineering, certain applications, such as analysing tissue samples without requiring a microscope slide, need imaging of uneven surfaces at high spatial resolution. Hence, the new technology has addressed the trade-off between resolution and depth of field.
By adopting a longer, thinner, and more “needle-shaped” laser light beam than other PAM technologies, NB-PAM enhances the depth of field. By altering the optical properties of the beam, it is possible to avoid some of the problems that come with previous attempts to enhance the depth of field of PAM technology, such as slower operation or increased computing power needs.
A diffractive optical element (DOE) is a specialised tool used to produce this needle-shaped beam. A DOE appears to be a thin sheet of glass to the untrained eye, but it is a piece of fused silica with precise patterns carved on it.
These patterns alter the form of the imaging beam of light, causing it to be dragged out into a long, thin neck rather than focusing on a sharp point along the propagation axis. As a result, it can image objects more clearly at a wider range of depths.
The researchers used two different imaging techniques to show this increased depth of field, including imaging in vivo mouse brain vasculature with a blue laser and imaging fresh organ samples with an ultraviolet laser.
According to Wang, this approach opens new possibilities for examining tissue samples during surgery, allowing total eradication of malignant cells and maximum preservation of normal ones. Translation into the operation room is a logical area for investigation in the future.
Meanwhile, the only core facility on the Caltech campus that offers light microscopy facilities is the Biological Imaging Facility or BIF (formerly known as the Biological Imaging Centre, BIC).
The BIF offers software tools for processing and interpreting image data in addition to microscopes. Two computer workstations at the BIF are equipped with Bitplane’s Imaris 3D/4D image processing and visualisation software.
A third computer workstation is running the Linux version of Scientific Volume Imaging B.V.’s (SVI) Huygens software, a strong image deconvolution application.