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Researchers develop 'safe' quarantine monitoring system

27 September 2021
Platform destroys personal data after quarantine period
A School of Computer Science researcher is collaborating with the NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN) and the University of Technology to deliver a quarantine monitoring system that could be used by arrivals once state and national borders reopen.

Dr Suranga Seneviratne. Credit: University of Sydney

The Pandemic Impact Control System (PAIMCOS) is an easily accessible quarantine monitoring technology that only requires a smart phone and an internet connection.

The system does not require users to download an app and has been designed to collect minimal personal data, which will then be destroyed after the quarantine period is completed.

Users would simply need to send a text message to a secure number, which would then ask them to log in to a website. The website would then access the user’s location, however would not store these details beyond the monitoring period/quarantine period. 

The system addresses privacy concerns voiced in response to other quarantine monitoring applications currently in use across Australia by interacting with users without collecting data, alleviating concerns of mass surveillance.

Working with NSSN and UTS, Dr Seneviratne said it was important that PAIMCOS collect the absolute minimum amount of data required to verify a user's quarantine compliance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been an extraordinarily stressful time for everyone in the community. If we want people to do the right thing while in quarantine, it’s really important that mutual trust be established. One way to do this is to ensure this system does not collect people’s personal data.
Dr Suranga Seneviratne, School of Computer Science

“We’re bringing our expertise in cybersecurity and data privacy to this project, ensuring the data is collected securely, and that it will be permanently destroyed after the quarantine period.”

In addition to home-quarantine monitoring, PAIMCOS has boundary management functions allowing for effective management of hotspots (areas where cases are high and movement is restricted) and ‘honeypots’ (areas they may wish to enter illegally, such as sporting events).

PAIMCOS CEO Adrian Iordachescu said the project aims to strengthen the system by using Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to optimise the sequence for fraud prevention, high scalability and protection against cyber-attacks.

“While the system involves innovative technological design, the aim has been a practical one; to meet the challenges of working across a large and highly diverse population – such as the population of greater Sydney,” Mr Iordachescu said. 

“While PAIMCOS presents the foundational concepts, it is through collaboration with NSSN, UTS and University of Sydney that these concepts will provide a robust solution. PAIMCOS will play a central role in further securing our society after vaccination targets are reached.”

Associate Professor Yang Wang from the UTS Data Science Institute said the system alleviates the security and privacy concerns often associated with other quarantine monitoring systems.

“The system does not require users to download and install an app. Instead, it uses geofencing and the user’s voice to verify their identity,” Associate Professor Wang said. 

“Using advanced AI algorithms, we optimise the timing of compliance checks based on the circumstances of each individual, which minimises the risk of non-compliance and ensures interruption for the users is minimal.”

About PAIMCOS:

  • Allows for immediate, electronic ring-fencing of individuals, households, housing blocks, suburbs or neighbourhoods. 
  • Easy-to-use among people from linguistically, culturally and socially diverse backgrounds.  
  • The system does not require a download or opt-in procedure.
  • Operates on smart phones (iPhone or Android) without the use of facial recognition.
  • Monitors the user with unscheduled calls that require a response. The frequency of calls can be scaled up or down.
  • Recorded contacts are automatically discarded after each week of monitoring.
  • If quarantine is breached, the system will notify a central point automatically (local health services, police or both). 
  • Designed to provide a sense of community security as vaccination proceeds.
  • Highly cost-effective and instantly scalable.

Declaration

The NSW Smart Sensing Network was founded by the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales in 2016 with financial support from the NSW Government. The NSSN brings together academia, industry and government to translate world-class smart-sensing research into real world applications.

PAIMCOS is a start-up company co-founded by Adrian Iordachescu who is also the founder and CEO of VisiCase, a provider of aged care and NDIS-ready software solutions.

Luisa Low

Media and PR Adviser (Engineering & IT)

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