Hundreds of NZ Students join ‘Virus experiment’ to predict outbreaks – video

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The University of Auckland is involving hundreds of students in an experimental trial to predict and minimalise outbreaks of viruses such as Covid-19.

An app called Safe Blues will be piloted with a joint partnership between researchers at the University of Auckland and Australian, Dutch and American universities.

It uses Android phones’ Bluetooth to spread tokens in the digital work to other phone users in surrounding areas to understand relationships between physical mobility and epidemic spread.

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“This is an opportunity for our university community to show their solidarity with people all around the word who are suffering from the current pandemic,” said Safe Blues project leader Dr Azam Asanjarani.

“As a token of our appreciation, participants can go into a draw for multiple prizes including iPads, phones and FitBit trackers with the probability of winning depending on the amount of time they participate in the experiment.”

The app is developed to help health officials gain control of epidemics with real-time data on contact between people to find out the effectiveness of different regulatory measures.

Bluetooth signals on the app allow the participants to mimic the spread of a virus and automatically report the number of ‘virtual infections’ to a cloud server that can then be collected from the app and anonymised.

The difference between typical contact tracing apps such as NZ COVID Tracer is that Safe Blues does not record any data about the persons’ identity or anyone they come in contact with. Recordings of data only cover whether devices have received one or more tokens if the app is running.

Experimental phases will start on May 1, 2021.

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