A spin-off company from NUS, Breathonix Pte Ltd, has developed an easy-to-use breath test to detect COVID-19 within a minute.
This innovative technology, which is believed to be the first in Asia, has achieved more than 90 per cent accuracy in a Singapore-based pilot clinical trial that involved 180 patients.
Breathonix was founded by NUS graduates, Dr Jia Zhunan and Mr Du Fang, and is supported by the NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme, a programme that encourages the University’s graduate students and research staff to establish and run high potential start-ups based on deep technologies.
“Our breath test is easy to administer, and it does not require specially-trained staff or laboratory processing. Results are generated in real-time, making it an attractive solution for mass screening, especially in areas with high human traffic. We believe our breath analysis platform shows promise in changing the tides of this pandemic,” said Dr Jia, Chief Executive Officer of Breathonix.
Quick real time diagnosis
The revolutionary breath analysis technology developed by Breathonix offers a fast and convenient solution to identify COVID-19 infection. It works by detecting Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) present in a person’s exhaled breath.
Dr Jia explained, “VOCs are consistently produced by various biochemical reactions in human cells. Different diseases cause specific changes to the compounds, resulting in detectable changes in a person’s breath profile. As such, VOCs can be measured as markers for diseases like COVID-19.”
The test is simple to administer. A person only needs to blow into a disposable mouthpiece connected to a high-precision breath sampler. The exhaled breath is collected and fed into a cutting-edge mass spectrometer for measurement. A machine learning software analyses the VOC profile and generates the result in less than a minute.
“The disposable mouthpiece that our system uses has a one-way valve and a saliva trap, preventing inhalation and any saliva from entering the machine. This makes cross-contamination unlikely,” said Mr Du, Chief Operating Officer of Breathonix.
Pilot clinical trial conducted in Singapore
The team at Breathonix collaborated with the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), to test their breath analysis system for COVID-19 detection.
In a pilot clinical trial involving 180 patients, Breathonix’s breath test, which uses in-built machine learning algorithms, achieved more than 90 per cent accuracy, with sensitivity-correctly identify those with the disease of 93 per cent, and specificity – correctly identify those without the disease of 95 per cent.
The clinical trial is ongoing, and more tests are required to further improve the accuracy of the technology.
If assessed to be suitable, this breath analysis platform could potentially be deployed in airports to facilitate the recovery of the tourism sector, as well as in places with high human traffic, such as dormitories.
The NUS GRIP team led by Professor Freddy Boey, Deputy President (Innovation & Enterprise), is providing advice to Breathonix to obtain regulatory approvals for their technology and to deploy their system for mass screening.
Prof Boey said, “The novel technology to analyse VOCs accurately and quickly was first developed by Dr Jia Zhunan when she was a PhD student, for early detection of lung cancer. The technology was birthed through NUS GRIP, into the start-up Breathonix, and it is now contributing to Singapore’s fight against COVID-19. This demonstrates the huge potential of Singapore’s home-grown technologies and deep-tech start-ups. NUS is proud of the progress Breathonix has made since its inception, and we look forward to seeing their technology being deployed in Singapore in the near future to protect the health and well-being of the community.”
Photo – Breathonix is founded by Dr Jia Zhunan (left) and Mr Du Fang (middle). With them is NUS Deputy President (Innovation & Enterprise) Professor Freddy Boey (right).
Science, engineering, technology, and innovation give people the power to develop a country and its quality of life. Investment in these areas is vital for economic growth and social progress.
Research and development in smart tech can help build greener cities with better access to essential systems and services for all. Moreover, infrastructure development, technology transfer and public and private R&D must be supported and regulated by good policies if they are to work.
To ensure scientific progress is encouraged and embraced at all levels of government decision-making, the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM) is tasked with giving strategic advice to the government and stakeholders, as well as pursuing excellence in science, engineering, and technology for the benefit of everyone.
Malaysia’s S.E.T.I. Initiatives
One of the contributions of the ASM is to incorporate interactive learning of STEM into the pedagogy of education in Malaysian schools. “To see the performance and results, inquiry-based science education (IBSE) will create an interactive learning environment in the physical classroom. Therefore, we want to have this kind of ecosystem and environment in schools.”
She is eager to see more collaboration between tertiary education and industry so that any courses and curricula provided by universities are both industry-required and future-proof. This is why their organisation is working with the government to create collaboration between industry and academia. “I believe that will help us advance more.”
ASM is currently working with the Malaysian government, in particular the central agency, to begin evaluating public decision-making universities based on data. Hence, using facts, metrics, and data to inform strategic business decisions that align with goals, objectives, and initiatives is the most effective data-driven decision-making.
Making data-driven decisions the norm within an organisation is necessary to foster a climate that values scepticism and curiosity. “Data is the starting point of conversations at every level, and people improve their data skills through practice and application,” says Hazami.
At its core, this calls for a self-service model where users can access the data they require while maintaining a balance between security and governance. Additionally, it necessitates proficiency, resulting in opportunities for training and development for workers to acquire data skills.
Additionally, ASM has developed a Responsible Conduct of Research module which acts as a benchmark to have this code of ethics in research taught to all graduates, whether they are in hard sciences or the social sciences.
“We want that because every piece of knowledge we incorporate in the future will be based on good science and value. Therefore, we must consider bioethics, biosecurity, and training modules on ethics in research,” Hazami explains.
ASM has recently directed its scientists to provide solutions in close collaboration with the ministries. Citing as an example is their committee on water, energy, health, agriculture, and biodiversity (WEHAB++). For instance, when Malaysia faces issues such as the price hike for chicken feed which causes societal dissatisfaction, solutions to food security issues such as this can be provided by the Academy’s expert network through science and technology directly to the government and stakeholders.
In addition to providing policies and strategies to decision-makers, the ASM also teaches them how to carry out those policies and strategies by applying their knowledge.
Hazami highlighted the growing movement called “Open Science” which aims to open scientific data and research to the public. In addition to democratising knowledge, the international principle of making research data findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR) will support open scientific inquiry and integrity, facilitate improved research management, and encourage data-intensive research.
Unprecedented insights and solutions to local, regional, and global complex challenges are made possible by integrating numerous data streams and enormous datasets across numerous disciplines.
Through the Malaysia Open Science Alliance, the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment & Climate Change (MESTECC), now known as the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI) and the ASM are laying the groundwork for the realisation of the Malaysia Open Science Platform (MOSP), a strategic transformative project to strengthen Malaysia’s STI Collaborative Ecosystem.
“The Malaysia Open Science Platform or MOSP aims to connect raw research data, then collaborate and share,” Hazami explains. “By creating a reliable platform that enables accessibility and sharing of research data aligned to national priorities and international best practices, this initiative seeks to transform Malaysia’s research data into a valuable national asset.”
Hazami is passionate about science and technology because it has the power to change the nation. “I’m attempting to make a change, and one of those changes is in the area of science and technology.”
For her, the most meaningful contribution in her 26 years in the academy was when the government accepted 80% of their recommendations for transforming and creating change and an ecosystem. “For now, our current areas of focus are strengthening governance, the innovation ecosystem and the sustainability of R&D funding.”
A change in paradigm towards a growth mindset among policymakers, scientists and the younger generations is her greatest challenge and greatest passion. She believes that when decision-making is based on data, it can provide the best solution possible.
Hazami strongly believes that Malaysian women are more than capable of pursuing careers in science and technology. They hope to have a strong support network to help them succeed in those fields, whether as practitioners or scientists.
“Our goal is flexibility. We need to have an open work environment and open innovation because we can work from home as researchers and scientists. We are more adaptable now. If we can accomplish this, more and more women will contribute to the workforce more effectively,” she says emphatically.
By reaching out to the top management and demystifying technical terms, OpenGov Asia, a steadfast supporter of Malaysia’s digital transformation journey and an advocate for citizen-centric development, will continue to help bring about change. Hazami concludes by urging top leaders to practice a growth mindset for the betterment of the country.
Hazami strongly believes that over the course of the next five years, ASM will continue to serve as a catalyst for change and create the science, technology, innovation, and economy (STIE) ecosystem for the entire nation towards the full potential of digital transformation, including the Malaysian transformation and the humanisation of the economy. “Leaders’ courageous decisions pave the road to successful digital transformation.”
The Institute for Digital Molecular Analytics and Science (IDMxS), which aims to promote the science of analysing biological molecules (biomolecules) using information technology and data science, was recently established by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore). This could pave the way for real-time environmental or health data monitoring and analysis, like how real-time traffic data can be obtained on mobile devices.
IDMxS, NTU’s newest national Research Centre of Excellence (RCE), is funded with a total investment of over S$160 million over 10 years, with the majority coming from NTU and the National University of Singapore and S$94 million coming from the Singapore Ministry of Education.
Digital molecular analytics, a novel scientific discipline that analyses individual molecules to discover, identify, and measure biomolecules with extraordinary accuracy, is at the core of the work done at IDMxS.
Such a science will open many new areas of research, such as the creation of diagnostic testing capabilities that may then inspire the creation of new technologies and commercial spinoffs, including blood testing kits that can generate findings instantly using nothing more than a smartphone camera.
The interdisciplinary centre is anticipated to house 100 full-time researchers and employees with backgrounds ranging throughout the spectrum of engineering and science, from optics, computer science, and artificial intelligence (AI) to biology, medical technology, and chemistry.
Postgraduate students from NTU will have exceptional chances for interdisciplinary education and training that spans the molecular sciences and information technology through the graduate programme of IDMxS. More than 30 PhD students will receive support from the Centre, four of whom have already begun their studies. As clinical diagnostics become more digital, IDMxS will also create continuing education programmes aimed at developing and modernising the healthcare workforce.
By fusing the fields of biology and information technology – which have each recently undergone revolutionary changes – IDMxS will create the new science of digital molecular analytics. The objective is to develop tools that can track environmental data, such as air and water quality, and health information, like viral infections or molecular signatures that signal the existence of a disease, in real-time. To develop innovative solutions for issues with health, sickness, and environmental monitoring, this process begins with the development of fundamental science.
The ability to simultaneously gather a variety of data types from a biological sample and use tools like AI and machine learning algorithms to analyse and interpret the enormous volume of data that would otherwise be impossible for humans to make sense of is at the core of IDMxS’ digital molecular analytical strategies. The research centre intends to someday spin out solutions like widely used software using digital molecular analytics.
Moreover, making blood sample test kits is one potential use for digital molecular analytics that IDMxS is investigating. The goal of this research is to create a tool that can recognise the various chemicals responsible for illnesses, infections, and diseases.
This suggests that a physician might someday be able to take a blood sample, analyse it with a smartphone camera, and obtain an accurate, real-time reading next to the patient at the doctor’s table. A similar idea might do away with the necessity for additional time-consuming laboratory tests.
The extensive surveillance of illnesses spread by insects like dengue and malaria is another project that is now under development. Researchers can one day create an imaging system that can swiftly detect and monitor dengue among the mosquito population by recognising and analysing the chemicals that make up the dengue virus. Such studies might also be used to track other airborne infections and infectious diseases, in addition to insect-borne diseases that affect urban health.
In a bid to become a digital airline, the Vietnam Airlines Engineering Company Ltd (VAECO), a subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines, has signed a cooperation agreement with private players to deploy an aircraft maintenance and engineering management software system. Under the agreement, the system will provide technical management tools, manage the maintenance programme more closely, and more efficiently synchronise data. This will contribute to reducing maintenance costs and time, improving the operational readiness factor for the fleet.
The software also provides tools for planning, controlling maintenance procedures, and managing human resources to optimise production processes. It will minimise labour costs for recording and data entry and work control, leading to an overall increase in labour productivity, by an estimated 15-20%
The software provides synchronous information about failure status, maintenance history, and the status of spare parts. This enables technicians to make effective and timely repair decisions. It is expected to reduce flight stoppages, delays, and cancellations.
Furthermore, the system will shorten the aircraft maintenance time and create favourable conditions for the airline to concentrate human resources to expand the outside maintenance market share. The Deputy General Director of Vietnam Airlines, Nguyen Chien Thang, noted that the new technology will make an important contribution to helping VAECO become a leading aircraft maintenance service provider in the region while accelerating digital transformation.
Currently, Vietnam Airlines is the airline with the largest fleet in Vietnam, with more than 100 aircraft including Boeing 787, Airbus A350, A321, A321neom, and ATR72. The airline is constantly modernising its fleet, as well as improving its aircraft maintenance capacity and mastering new technologies.
In January, the airline launched two e-commerce platforms VNAMAZING, VNAMALL as well as its Vietnam Airlines Gift Card. The services were the first of their kind in the domestic aviation sector. VNAMAZING offers online tourism services including tour and accommodation bookings. VNAMALL provides a wide range of aviation and non-aviation goods and services.
As OpenGov Asia reported, the Vietnam Airlines Gift Card is a product available on VNAMALL, which can be used to exchange airline tickets or avail of business class upgrade benefits on flights operated by Vietnam Airlines, Pacific Airlines, and VASCO. An official from Vietnam Airlines said that the airline considers e-commerce development one of its top priorities.
In August, the carrier announced that passengers using the airline’s air service can now access a free-of-charge news-reader application called PressReader for Vietnamese and international publications. The application provides more than 7,000 digital newspaper and magazine titles available in over 70 languages. According to Vietnam Airlines, passengers can use the application 24 hours before the scheduled departure time and 24 hours after landing.
To use the app, passengers must download the Vietnam Airlines app, choose the PressReader button, and verify their booking code and flight information. Articles can be read online or downloaded for offline reading.
Most recently, Vietnam Airlines launched an online check-in service for passengers departing from Phu Bai airport in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue. The move increases efficiency and improves customer experience and convenience. Passengers are now able to check in via the official portal or the Vietnam Airlines application within 24 hours to one hour ahead of departure.
New technology will be keeping beachgoers safer this summer with the Smart Beaches project providing real-time data to almost 50 beaches in NSW, helping the region’s lifeguards more accurately predict beach conditions using GPS and smart cameras.
The Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government stated that the NSW government had invested AU$ 1.6 million to expand the project beyond the Northern Beaches and Lake Macquarie to five new council areas up and down the coast this swim season.
He noted that wave detection buoys, artificial intelligence cameras and surf rescue boards fitted with GPS technology to gather accurate data will be used on beach conditions to enable lifeguards to be better prepared for the busy summer ahead.
These smart devices will provide real-time readings on tide conditions and wave patterns, as well as help to predict how many people will visit the beach, how long they will stay and the most popular times for a swim.
The Smart Beaches project will allow beachgoers to feel safer at the surf, knowing the lifeguards have the latest data on hand to be better prepared for dangerous conditions and prevent incidents both in and out of the water.
The Minister for Local Government stated that the expansion of the trial will mean more councils will benefit from new technology. The data insights help councils make better decisions about when and where to roster lifeguards, decisions that could save lives, she said. As a result, this programme will now be expanded to beaches in Randwick, Central Coast, Wollongong, Newcastle, and Sutherland.
The Member for Manly noted that the technology had been successfully trialled at Freshwater, Shelley, South Steyne and Dee Why beaches. Over the summer of 2020-2021, 88 lives were lost in the surf. Thus, the technology will help lifeguards make more informed decisions to reduce that toll.
The state’s lifeguards will require all help they can get monitoring the surf, conditions, crowd numbers and keeping our beachgoers safe. An app is also being developed for Summer 2023/2024 that will help councils streamline existing reporting and data systems into one, easy-to-interpret dashboard. Funding has been provided through the Smart Places Acceleration Programme, an AU$45 million allocation as part of the Digital Restart Fund.
About the Smart Places Acceleration Programme
The NSW government has launched the NSW Smart Places Acceleration Programme, an AU$45 million initiative that helps place owners – including councils, government agencies, property owners, and regional organisations – partner with the State Government to solve problems and improve the quality of life for communities across regional and metropolitan NSW.
The programme will seek to:
- Support economic and community recovery post COVID-19
- Encourage partnerships with and co-investment from local councils and industry to deliver smart place initiatives
- Support advancement and implementation of the NSW Smart Places Strategy
- Ensure NSW remains the leading state in implementing Smart Places initiatives
The Minister for Customer Service stated that this programme will connect and empower communities by driving investment in new technology and data. The aim is to use technology to make life easier for people. Be it busting congestion or improving health outcomes, the funding aims to strengthen communities. The government is calling on expressions of interest and encourages all relevant councils and place owners to bring forward ideas.
The seven best smart cities in Indonesia were announced at the Ministry of Communication and Informatics seminar and exhibition on the Movement Towards Smart Cities (Smart City) in 2022 in Jakarta. Representatives from 141 regencies attend the event in a framework for evaluating the implementation of the Smart City 2022 program.
District/city officials who have succeeded in developing a master plan under the Smart City development in their respective regions attended. The session was organised to showcase the commitment of all regional leaders so that the community see the benefits and progress, said Bambang Dwi Anggono, Director of Government Information Application Services (LAIP) of the Ministry of Communication and Information.
The five best cities and two districts took the Smart City award in the following categories:
- Smart Governance: City of Bandung,
- Smart Branding: Surakarta City,
- Smart Economy: Semarang City,
- Smart Society: City of Yogyakarta,
- Smart Living: Demak Regency,
- Smart Environment: Madiun City, and
- National Priority Tourism Area: Wonogiri
The Smart City initiative is a strategic step toward addressing development plans holistically. The programme aims to harmonise regional government sectors and regional initiative programmes with other regional governments, the central government, the business world, and even other countries. Local governments can work together with other local governments, businesses, academia, and the general public to launch various initiatives that will have a positive impact.
The Smart City Movement aims to guide regions and cities across Indonesia in designing digital-based development that considers each region’s potential and challenges. Furthermore, the Smart City programme can bring innovations from Jakarta to other areas, ensuring an even distribution of development programmes.
The Ministry of Communication and Information has facilitated interconnection with relevant parties in the Smart City development. In addition, the Ministry, through the LAIP Directorate, intends to include 50 regencies/cities in the Smart City master plan assistance in 2023.
“We hope that regional leaders (regents/mayors) will have the courage to innovate and make breakthroughs for the good of society. Correspondingly, we encourage regional heads to become change agents in these breakthroughs (SPBE),” said Bambang Dwi Anggono.
The Ministry intends to implement Smart Province next year. The Smart Province programme will select two provinces in 2023 to prepare the master plan. Smart Province development conceptualises development innovations at the provincial level and coordinates Smart City development at the district level within its jurisdiction. Two provinces will be selected to help prepare the master plan.
Semuel Abrijani Pangerapan, Director General of Informatics Applications at the Ministry of Communication and Information, emphasised the importance of digital transformation as a foundation for building smart cities.
“Creating a Smart City begins with digital transformation; from there, every local government understands what is required. Because each Regional Government has unique characteristics. But, in the end, everything will point to the holistic Smart City that we taught,” he was quoted as saying.
He also stressed the importance of creating a master plan for the long-term development of Smart Cities as establishing a smart city would take 15 to 20 years. As a result, the Ministry has created a programme to educate local entities on constructing a Smart City.
The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) has sped up the development of technology to keep up with the fast changes in the economy, society, and way of life. This is especially important for the year 2023 when people’s activities around the world are expected to rely more on digital systems, such as finances, business, information management, transportation, and many other things.
The Digital Post ID was recently introduced by Chaiwut Thanakmanusorn, Minister of Digital Economy and Society (DES). The system is currently undergoing testing by the necessary organisations and is anticipated to be implemented by 2023.
The government agency is making strides to improve digital innovation infrastructure. According to the Digital Economy Promotion Master Plan (2018 – 2022), there is a proposal to alter the form of addressing information into a digital address, known as Digital Post ID by designating the Thai Post Office as a regulating body.
The MDES runs projects to improve Thailand’s delivery system, which has been based on five-digit postal codes for more than 40 years. This is done by making it easier to find people in Thailand with a digital 1post ID code that can be turned into their address coordinates down to the household level.
To facilitate having a digital post ID In the future, post offices or logistics providers will have QR code label printers that digitally affix a post ID to parcels or envelopes. Personal information will not be displayed on the box or envelope’s address, so both the recipient and sender may rest assured that their privacy will be protected.
The application must be installed on the device to scan the QR Code and display the sender-recipient information, and the QR Code has a single usage. In addition, access to various information is restricted in accordance with the Personal Data Protection Act 2019 principles. In addition, it will ensure the purchase of e-Commerce products more because it may connect the delivery routes.
The Digital Post ID service provided by Thailand Post is an extremely helpful one that helps to maintain the safety and confidentiality of the documents owned by individuals. In addition, Thailand is rapidly embracing digital technology, and the country is becoming increasingly well-connected. With a population of over 69 million, the country is home to a wide range of Internet users, and digital technology is growing rapidly.
The Thai government has been proactive in promoting digital technology and has implemented several initiatives to help the country keep up with the rest of the world. This includes increasing access to high-speed Internet, encouraging digital literacy, and investing in the development of digital infrastructure.
The government has also been encouraging the use of mobile phones, tablets and laptops. These devices are becoming increasingly popular and are being used by people of all ages to access information and services.
The Thai government has also been investing in the development of cloud computing services. This has enabled businesses in the country to store their data securely and access it quickly and easily. Cloud computing has also enabled businesses to reduce their costs, as they can access services without having to invest in physical infrastructure. Furthermore, the Thai government is promoting the development of e-commerce and online payment systems
Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang announced at a cabinet meeting that Taiwan’s contract chip manufacturing firms now have a 63% share of the global market. Furthermore, Taiwanese companies handle 58% of all global integrated circuit packaging and testing. As a result, Taiwan semiconductor manufacturing has emerged as a critical player in global supply chains.
Taiwan’s semiconductor industry has risen to first place in the world in chip manufacturing and integrated circuit packaging after four decades of hard work. Taiwan also ranks second globally in integrated circuit design, with a 22% market share. Furthermore, the domestic semiconductor industry is collaborating with foreign partners to serve global clients, demonstrating that Taiwan is an essential and irreplaceable partner due to the world’s most efficient and difficult-to-duplicate production model.
The achievement began three years ago when Taiwan took advantage of the global scenario. Taiwan persuaded related industry operations to relocate from China to Taiwan. Premier Su mentions the effort that resulted in three years of economic success.
According to recent data from global indexes, the premier also stated that Taiwan ranks among the top countries in the world on criteria such as investment environment and free democracy, with the country ranking among the best in Asia in many categories. These high marks enforce even more confidence in international partners.
Nonetheless, Su emphasises the importance of Taiwan remaining vigilant. The government is developing response measures to allow domestic chip manufacturers to maintain their competitive edge and vital positions in the industry. Premier Su stated that the government is consulting with the industry to develop a future development strategy. The strategy provides more generous tax incentives, encourages R&D investment, and eases restrictions on talent recruitment, in addition to delivering Taiwan-based semiconductor manufacturers with a high-quality investment environment, including the provision of water, electricity and land.
The government’s comprehensive support for the domestic semiconductor industry will enable Taiwan to maintain its lead in advanced technology and efficient fabrication methods, secure a substantial competitive advantage, and continue contributing to the world. The country will also adhere to international norms while reassuring allies. Taiwan will maintain this stance in the future, displaying critical strengths to the world and being a team player who inspires international trust.
Meanwhile, Taiwan and Slovakia recently signed three Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) in Bratislava, pledging to increase bilateral trade, startup exchanges, and talent-nurturing collaborations in the semiconductor sector. The Memoranda of Understanding were signed by the Taipei Importers and Exporters Association and the Council of Slovak Exporters, Taiwan’s Startup Terrace and the Slovak Business Agency, National Sun Yat-sen University, and the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava.
The MoUs were signed during the second session of the Taiwanese-Slovak Commission on Economic Cooperation, which was attended by a Taiwanese delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Tsai Ming-yen. During the meeting, Tsai and Peter Gerhart, Slovak State Secretary of the Ministry of Economy, discussed ways to expand bilaterally.