The research is being carried out through a collaborative effort with researchers from various institutions, including Cornell, the University of Queensland, the University of Melbourne, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The virtual virus, which is called ‘Safe Blues’, is transmitted between phones via Bluetooth and responds to physical distancing directives in a similar way to the real COVID-19 virus. The strands differ in their viral properties, such as incubation time and level of infectivity.
“Threads are counted as ‘active’ for a finite period of time on each mobile device that is ‘infected’. During that time, if the mobile device is very close to another device, there is a possibility that the thread will “propagate” to the neighboring device “, a explains the research work on the project.
As in the real world, if the mobile device is isolated, the virtual chain is unlikely to spread to other devices.
“Safe Blues offers a solution for real-time population-level estimates of an epidemic response to government directives and near-future projections,” the researchers note. “The relationship between thread count and actual epidemic progress can be determined using machine learning techniques applied to late measurements of the actual epidemic.”
The researchers note that this allows real-time data from Safe Blues tokens to be used to estimate the current and near future state of the pandemic.
It is worth noting that this project is not necessarily about studying the behavior of the virus, but about gaining a better understanding of the population that spreads it.
“Population behavior is changing rapidly due to unprecedented social distancing regulation and is difficult to observe, model and predict,” the researchers note.
Because of this, it can be difficult to achieve real-time estimates of various parameters, such as the expected number of people infected by an infectious person. It is possible that this new tool could provide researchers with a better understanding of these types of factors, as well as asymptomatic spread.