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Scientists develop new concept to slow down future pandemics

Prashasthi Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on March 30, 2021

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed an encrypted method that can be applied to a device, including cellphones, to help with the ultimate goal of slowing down or preventing future pandemics.

The researchers of the study called the method “encounter metrics.” Encounter metrics measure the levels of interactions between members of a population.

In order to mitigate the spread of an infectious disease there is the assumption that less communication and interaction with people in a community is essential. Fewer interactions among people means there is less of a chance of the disease spreading from one person to another.

Author of the study, NIST researcher René Peralta, said: “We need to measure that. It’s important to develop technology to measure that and then see how we can use that technology to shape our working environment to slow future pandemics.”

How does the concept work?

Researchers explained: Picture two people walking from opposite ends of a hallway who meet in the middle. To record this encounter, each person could carry their own phone or a Bluetooth device that broadcasts a signal as soon as the encounter occurs.

Now, the researchers intended to label this encounter between two people through a random number that is not linked to the device each person carries. This is what the researchers call an “encounter ID.”

Peralta developed an encrypted system that uses encounter IDs to not only measure the encounter between two people but to strengthen the privacy of the identities of the two people from third parties.

Peralta stated that gathering these measurements of how individuals interact with one another can help with better-understanding ways of modifying working environments.

The study was published in the Journal of Research of NIST.

Published on March 30, 2021

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