Making contact-tracing rewarding

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on April 29, 2020 Published on April 29, 2020

The AIISMA app incentivises users to share data about Covid-19 and more

The fight against coronavirus involves five key steps. Social distancing, contact tracing, isolation, testing and treatment. Of these, contract tracing plays a crucial role in helping curb the spread of the disease among communities. In the earlier episodes of pandemics and epidemics contact tracing was a mammoth manual exercise, while today thanks to digital technology it has become a much easier task.

Several solutions have emerged in recent times, especially after the Covid outbreak, offering innovative measures to help government agencies, civil societies and individuals to track people with infections and areas where such patients are found in large numbers (hotspots). Las Vegas-founded and Gurgaon-based data marketplace AIISMA has come up with a solution to make contact tracing easier using algorithmic tools. The application can be used in smartphones and feature phones, which means it works pretty much everywhere, rural or urban centres.

The app, which is on beta mode now and is available on Android, has a familiar user interface but is run by a not-so-familiar idea. It basically allows users to key in their personal data and tries to take it to a marketplace where they can exchange it for rewards. Of the many functions of the app, the AiiHealth allows users to take their health data and share it with agencies and join the fight against Covid by helping identify hotspots and get alerts when entering such areas and stay alert.

Ankit Chaudhari, CEO & Co-founder, AIISMA, says this is not just another contact tracing or survey app which tries to track the health features of the general population. It is much more comprehensive than that. “When we were planning AIISMA, we were not thinking that we would be seeing a pandemic like Covid. Our focus was on making user data more valuable and rewarding.” Chaudhari says when the pandemic started spreading the team realised the app had two distinct features which could be used specifically for Covid-19 purposes. “Since a user can share their geolocation consensually and anonymously, we felt that could be useful for contact tracing. Next, we have a very comprehensive profiling system where users share data such as physical attributes, habits, which could be useful in the fight against Covid.”

Chaudhari says the app is very different from the government-sponsored Aarogya Setu app, even though both share features such as contact facing an item pretty much similar to our cycle. Aiisma respects the user’s privacy, says Chaudhari. Even though the app farms precious private data from its users, “all the important personal data such as the user’s location entered on the app are independent and are not stored on our servers.”

The server identifies hotspots or contact points which might have positive status as identified and classified by the government or as integrated by one of the international sites. “The algorithm basically looks through the database and analyses the user days based on the information and places it over the map to figure out whether the user is in or near a place he or she should be cautious about.

If the user stays green, most likely the user has not come in touch with anyone who’s supposed to carry the virus, notes Chaudhari. But if by any chance the latitude-longitude matches by a certain percentage point, then the app alerts the user that s/he should get in touch with authorities and follow self-isolation guidelines. “At no point, the identity of the user is made public or the positive carrier is made public... everything is automatic. Wherever one moves or whoever one is in contact, the algorithm understands the location and matches it with the data.

The startup is on an expansion mode and a major build update for AIISMA is coming out soon. The team received one Angel round funding last year for $250,000. Chaudhari and team are planning to take the product to the masses and look forward to the coming weeks to make the app a useful tool in the country’s fight against Covid-19. “We are talking to governments in places such as Bangladesh and other agencies to launch the app in those geographies and soon we will be able to make a difference,” beams Chaudhari.

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Published on April 29, 2020
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