Tuesday April 7, 2020

FluSense: A Device That Can Detect Coughing and Predict Pandemic

This newly-invented portable device detects cough, can predict pandemic in making

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FluSense
FluSense is a deivce that can detect coughing and crowd size in real time, analyse the data to directly monitor flu-like illnesses and influenza trends and predict the next pandemic in the making. Pixabay

A team of US researchers has invented a portable surveillance device powered by machine learning called ‘FluSense’ that can detect coughing and crowd size in real time, analyse the data to directly monitor flu-like illnesses and influenza trends and predict the next pandemic in the making.

The ‘FluSense’ creators from University of Massachusetts Amherst said that the new edge-computing platform, envisioned for use in hospitals, healthcare waiting rooms and larger public spaces, may expand the arsenal of health surveillance tools used to forecast seasonal flu and other viral respiratory outbreaks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic or SARS.

“This may allow us to predict flu trends in a much more accurate manner,” said study co-author Tauhidur Rahman, assistant professor of computer and information sciences.

Models like these can be lifesavers by directly informing the public health response during a flu epidemic.

FluSense
The next step is to test ‘FluSense’ in other public areas and geographic locations. Pixabay

These data sources can help determine the timing for flu vaccine campaigns, potential travel restrictions, the allocation of medical supplies and more.

The ‘FluSense’ platform processes a low-cost microphone array and thermal imaging data with a Raspberry Pi and neural computing engine.

It stores no personally identifiable information, such as speech data or distinguishing images.

In Rahman’s Mosaic Lab, the researchers first developed a lab-based cough model.

They then trained the deep neural network classifier to draw bounding boxes on thermal images representing people, and then to count them.

“Our main goal was to build predictive models at the population level, not the individual level,” said Rahman.

From December 2018 to July 2019, the FluSense platform collected and analyzed more than 350,000 thermal images and 21 million non-speech audio samples from the public waiting areas.

The researchers found that FluSense was able to accurately predict daily illness rates at the university clinic.

FluSense
Models like ‘FluSense’ can be lifesavers by directly informing the public health response during a flu epidemic. Pixabay

According to the study, “the early symptom-related information captured by FluSense could provide valuable additional and complementary information to current influenza prediction efforts”.

Study lead author Forsad Al Hossain said FluSense is an example of the power of combining Artificial Intelligence with edge computing.

“We are trying to bring machine-learning systems to the edge,” Al Hossain says, pointing to the compact components inside the FluSense device. “All of the processing happens right here. These systems are becoming cheaper and more powerful.”

The next step is to test ‘FluSense’ in other public areas and geographic locations.

Also Read- Find some Family ‘Me-Time’ Amid Social Distancing Due to COVID-19

“We have the initial validation that the coughing indeed has a correlation with influenza-related illness. Now we want to validate it beyond this specific hospital setting and show that we can generalize across locations,” said epidemiologist Andrew Lover.

Rahman added: “I thought if we could capture coughing or sneezing sounds from public spaces where a lot of people naturally congregate, we could utilize this information as a new source of data for predicting epidemiologic trends”. (IANS)

Next Story

Find out How Coronavirus Pandemic Has Disrupted Global Food Supplies

Explainer: How Coronavirus Crisis Is Affecting Food Supply

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People wait in line to buy food amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in downtown Havana, Cuba. VOA

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted global food supplies and is causing labor shortages in agriculture worldwide. This is the latest health news.

Are there food shortages?

Panic buying by shoppers cleared supermarket shelves of staples such as pasta and flour as populations worldwide prepared for lockdowns.

Meat and dairy producers as well as fruit and vegetable farmers struggled to shift supplies from restaurants to grocery stores, creating the perception of shortages for consumers.

Retailers and authorities say there are no underlying shortages and supplies of most products have been or will be replenished. Bakery and pasta firms in Europe and North America have increased production.

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Food firms say panic purchasing is subsiding as households have stocked up and are adjusting to lockdown routines.

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Agricultural workers clean carrot crops of weeds amid an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a farm near Arvin, California, U.S. VOA

The logistics to get food from the field to the plate, however, are being increasingly affected and point to longer-term problems.

In the short term, lack of air freight and trucker shortages are disrupting deliveries of fresh food.

In the long term, lack of labor is affecting planting and harvesting and could cause shortages and rising prices for staple crops in a throwback to the food crises that shook developing nations a decade ago.

What’s disrupting the food supply?

With many planes grounded and shipping containers hard to find after the initial coronavirus crisis in China, shipments of vegetables from Africa to Europe or fruit from South America to the United States are being disrupted.

A labor shortage could also cause crops to rot in the fields.

As spring starts in Europe, farms are rushing to find enough workers to pick strawberries and asparagus, after border closures prevented the usual flow of foreign laborers. France has called on its own citizens to help offset an estimated shortfall of 200,000 workers.

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More wide-scale crop losses are looming in India, where a lockdown has sent masses of workers home, leaving farms and markets short of hands as staple crops like wheat near harvest.

Is food going to cost more?

Wheat futures surged in March to two-month highs, partly because of the spike in demand for bakery and pasta goods, while corn (maize) sank to a 3½-year low as its extensive use in biofuel exposed it to an oil price collapse.

Benchmark Thai white rice prices have already hit their highest level in eight years.

Swings in commodity markets are not necessarily passed on in prices of grocery goods, as food firms typically buy raw materials in advance. A sustained rise in prices will, however, eventually be passed on to consumers.

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A farmer feeds iceberg lettuce to his buffalo during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Bhuinj village in Satara district in the western state of Maharashtra, India. VOA

Some poorer countries subsidize food to keep prices stable.

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The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that a rush to buy by countries that rely on imports of staple foods could fuel global food inflation, despite ample reserves of staple crops.

Fresh produce such as fruit or fish or unprocessed grains such as rice reflect more immediately changes in supply and demand.

Will there be enough food if the crisis lasts?

Analysts say global supplies of the most widely consumed food crops are adequate. Wheat production is projected to be at record levels in the year ahead.

Also Read- Every Hospital in US May Treat COVID-19 Patients: Health Human Service Agency

However, the concentration of exportable supply of some food commodities in a small number of countries and export restrictions by big suppliers concerned about having enough supply at home can make world supply more fragile than headline figures suggest.

Another source of tension in global food supply could be China. There are signs the country is scooping up foreign agricultural supplies as it emerges from its coronavirus shutdown and rebuilds its massive pork industry after a devastating pig disease epidemic. (VOA)