SIU Team Working On Virus Tracker

May 7, 2020

At SIU, a computing professor and two of his students are hoping to make it easier for people to know if they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus.

Koushik Sinha is an assistant professor at the School of Computing. He and two graduate students, Zachary Vanscoit and Sai Shanmukha Narumanchi, are building the tool, along with a collaborator in Australia.

Sinha said the virus contact map would use GPS data already gathered by people’s phones. It could be used by the general public and public health officials who are trying to trace the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A person can upload their own data and then look at if, in the recent past, if they were ever in close proximity with somebody [with COVID-19],” Sinha said.

Sinha’s team has been talking to local, state, and federal health officials to develop the tool. A key way his tool differs than those being developed by other organizations is privacy, he says.

Data from patients would be gathered only after someone has tested positive. People could elect to exclude some locations, like their home or office, and all information would be anonymous.

People who want to see if they’ve crossed paths with a COVID-19 patient would have to upload their location data, but Sinha says it would not be saved.

Sinha says his team is also working on technology that would allow the data to remain encrypted while being analyzed. They hope to have the contact map fully developed and available by the end of summer.