Sydney researchers create safe quarantine monitoring system

quarantine monitoring

The University of Sydney has collaborated with the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and the NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN) to deliver a quarantine monitoring system to be used by arrivals once state and national borders reopen. 

The Pandemic Impact Control System (PAIMCOS) has been designed to collect minimal personal data, which is then destroyed after the quarantine period. 

The system is an easily accessible quarantine monitoring technology that only requires a smart phone and an internet connection. 

Users will not need to download an app, but 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 without storing these details beyond the monitoring period/quarantine period. 

PAIMCOS 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. 

The University of Sydney School of Computer Science’s Dr Suranga Seneviratne said it is important that PAIMCOS collects 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,” he said. 

“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. 

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). 

The project aims to strengthen the system by using machine learning and artificial intelligence to optimise the sequence for fraud prevention, high scalability and protection against cyber-attacks. 

“The system uses geofencing and the user’s voice to verify their identity,” UTS Data Science Institute associate professor Yang 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.” 

Some of the other features of PAIMCOS include: 

  • 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 
  • 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 
  • 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. 

“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,” PAIMCOS CEO Adrian 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.” 

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