COVID-19: IIT Bombay develops two apps to track violations by those in quarantine
As the coronavirus crisis spreads, IIT-Bombay has come up with two mobile applications that can track violations by people supposed to be in quarantine.
Developed by the Computer Science and Engineering department, the apps are called “Corontine” and “Safe”.
While Corontine can register asymptomatic carriers and track them to check if they are confined to their quarantined zones, Safe checks for violations by those asked to be home-quarantined.
The proposals regarding both apps have been sent to various authorities, including officials in the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, Niti Aayog, the Maharashtra government and the BMC, sources said.
The Corontine app, built by a dedicated team of students and teachers along with some professionals and an alumnus, is a platform to track suspected carriers. “The Corontine platform and app can be helpful for authorities in checking if suspected carriers are confined in their quarantined zones. It allows geo-fencing and automatically generates alerts (sms, email, etc.) if users move out of the quarantined zone,” said a statement from the department.
The platform provisions for organising zones into regions, among other features. The app can be installed on the mobile phones of asymptomatic carriers (AC) by an authorised agency (AA). It will then send GPS coordinates of the mobiles periodically to a server under the supervision of the AA. If a user leaves a specified quarantined zone marked by a geo-fence, it will be auto-detected.
While there is increasing concern about technology boosting surveillance measures by governments, professor Ganesh Ramkrishnan said the app can help administrators without seeking much information from the user.
“The app right now is focused on those already quarantined. For Beta testing of the app, only the name and mobile number of a person is being sought,” he said, adding that the Epidemic Diseases Act allows for special powers to the government during such situations.
The Safe app has been in use by several students of IIT Bombay to mark their attendance in class or exams. Each time a student is required to take a selfie using the app, it detects the time and the geographical location of the user along with face-matching tools.
“With respect to the patients directed to be self-quarantined, the same functionality can be applied. The authorities can ask the user to send a report, say four times a day. The user will take a selfie and the authorities can check if they’re at the desired location. The violations can be checked on the authenticated user interface,” explained professor Bhaskaran Raman.
Conceding that a user can still find loopholes in the functioning of the app, Raman stated that the ideal way is to use the limited information provided by the app, and at the same time sensitise people and motivate them to participate truthfully.