Users of the new app can anonymously share their locations and receive alerts about potential and verified coronavirus cases.
Over the course of a weekend, David Hachuel, a health tech master’s student at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, and his partner Alfonso Martinez, an MBA student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, transformed Hachuel’s award-winning app that helps sufferers of gastrointestinal illness into one that tracks coronavirus (COVID-19) cases through crowd-sourcing information.
The new app, called Opendemic, will help individuals and local governments track the spread of the virus and make educated choices about social distancing, reported Cornell News.
Users can anonymously share their locations and receive alerts about potential and verified coronavirus cases.
“We wanted to help solve the issue of the lack of actual data on who has symptoms,” Hachuel said. “Because of the lack of test kits, we need to rely on self-reporting, and the idea here is to have a database that can be open to public health authorities so they can use that data, in addition to the data they already have, to make decisions about the right interventions.”
The developers hope that people will be inspired to interact with the app as it provides real-time information about nearby coronavirus cases allowing people to make informed decisions about social distancing.
Though Israel continues to increase restrictions on the movement of citizens, the U.S. has been slower to act.
“Especially in the U.S., where the rate of testing is so slow and the numbers are so small, it’s misleading people into thinking everything is OK,” Hachuel said. “It’s causing a false sense of security, and where I live in New York City people are outside as if nothing is happening and it’s quite worrisome. So a secondary goal of the app is to make individuals a bit more cautious about whether they should stay in or go out.”
Hachuel and Martinez seek to coordinate their efforts with other teams developing similar projects. Their goal is to compile the largest-possible pool of data.
“We’re not trying to be the only platform,” Hachuel said. “The idea is that anyone can contribute to a unified database, so obviously this doesn’t work unless a lot of people are using it.”
The Jacobs Institute was jointly established by the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Cornell University to create a global partnership that provides a a unique cross-cultural awareness to take on complex, real-world challenges and find solutions through research, education and entrepreneurship.