Francine Ong, David Boclé, Pierre Simon, Ping Yuan, Xinyi Dong, Pierre Quemard
Considering the current COVID-19 pandemic, we have obviously failed to contain its spread.
One of the main reasons for this is contact tracing. We were unable to efficiently track and monitor which person were infected and whom they interacted with.
Contact tracing can sound invasive and there is a legitimate privacy concern around it. Yet that is not the reason why we failed to deliver.
Indeed, when you think about privacy, Google and Facebook were able to bypass some of it using the power of convenience.
The reality is our contact tracing apps have not been convenient enough so far despite the technology being available (e.g data processing, contactless process, application at fingertips).
What lessons can we learn and apply to the current and future pandemics.
What is the problem?
A huge majority of organizations, such as restaurants, museums, railway stations, weren't prepared to the COVID-19 crisis.
There is a lack of sanitary protocols and no guidance to adapt.
Studies have shown that there is a high contamination rate and as a result a lot of countries decided to close those facilities to avoid the virus spreading, this had disastrous impact for global economy.
On the other hand, it is still difficult to report and follow-up on accidental exposures to COVID-19. Some legislations forced each organization to keep a record of all visitors but all of it remains handwritten most of the time and there is no common solution to gather all data together and have a proper contact tracing.
In all those public places, a check-in is usually processed, it could be based on payment or just a simple email validation; this is the foundation for Endemic to solve the problem.
What Endemic does
Endemic is a platform providing OpenAPIs and ready to use templates for different types of businesses, to integrate anonymous contact tracing inside existing processes and user journeys.
Endemic can either integrate organization's templates in its platform or be integrated in the organization's system.
Use Endemic templating
An organization can plug its information to Endemic by adding documentation, information, etc. The goal is to provide a seamless and convenient experience to the user enabling a contactless process. Thus, customer can access any content of an organization by scanning a QR Code provided by Endemic. At the first time, user need to enter its user info (name and email). If there is a payment, it is done through Endemic system as well, the experience is seamless and contactless. Finally, if someone report himself as COVID-19 positive, Endemic sends a notification by email to alert anyone who has been around within the previous 14 days.
Mary goes to the restaurant. She scans a QR code on her table which redirects to Endemic. On this web app, Mary can check the menu, place an order and pay.
The restaurant gets notified of the order and the waiter serves the food without any contact with the customer.
Few days later, Mary is feeling sick and is tested positive to COVID-19. She opens Endemic on any browser and claims herself as positive. All people around Mary in the previous 14 days are notified by email.
This is the case for the restaurant and all the customers in it at the same time as Mary.
Integrate Endemic in an existing system
Endemic provides OpenAPIs to report that a person was physically present at its spot at a specific time or to report that a person had been diagnosed covid-positive. Those APIs can be called at any step of an existing system. So that, if it is about checking-in, the organisation can register a person's entrance in its spot. If the organisation diagnoses a covid-positive person, it can register it to Endemic. Thus, it is possible to match all contact tracing and notify users in case of covid exposure.
Mary purchases online a ticket to visit a museum. Arriving at the museum, Mary can check-in with her e-ticket. Behind the scene, this will call Endemic's Open API as the museum integrates Endemic to report users' attendances. Few days later, Mary is feeling sick and is tested positive to COVID-19. The laboratory is linked to Endemic to send data on covid-positive cases. All people around Mary in the previous 14 days are notified by email.
What we learned to leverage Endemic
Throughout the world, countries used different techniques to track and contain the COVID pandemic. China for example used a very invasive tracking method and knows in real time where every individual is, allowing for fine control over the spread of the virus.
However, we can see that each country feels different about privacy based on specific cultural context. In western countries, there are "opt-in" proposals to try to monitor and contain covid spreading.
This measure saw variable results, since a shared trait of all human beings is lazyness and in general people are resiliant to change.
Leveraging on this hindisght, we want to propose a middleground between those two radically different approaches : Allow anonymity in tracking, but without relying on people's willingness to contribute to the solution.
To do so, Endemic's core values are to incorporate itself into existing processes. Wherever and whenever there is already a "touchpoint", we can intervene.
Our approach is to allow all businesses/venues/public places where people already declare their presences, to centralize this data in an anoymous way, allowing our algorithms to match "contact-cases" when we're aware that someone actually became sick.
How we built it
Let’s talk a bit about tech and go in details, because we are here for that after all. For this Hackathon we built two things:
The Endemic platform: that act as an Open API and aims to be available on FFDC, to register and match user. As this is the core of our project, we wanted to build it with empathy and without scoping it to a specific field/area. In fact, the idea is to be used by any actor of the chain, from the Restaurant to a Laboratory or a Government. To do so there are two main services offered by the platform:
Register the spot :general term to define the place, for example “restaurant Simon” or more detailed “restaurant Simon floor 1”. After that you can push as many attendances as you want.
Report someone as sick to our matching algorithm, that will match the unique identifier used, basically an email or a phone number, to notify all the person at risk and the tenant.
The demo web application: that consumes our API and explores one of the first use case we identified. Here we chose to take the restaurant use case and offer a user experience as contactless as possible. Where the menu and the payment are done by scanning a QR code. This is just one of the million possibilities that can exist, and such apps already exist in the market and are adopted by a lot of restaurants. The idea is to show that Endemic can be integrated easily and offer a smooth experience for the end user!
To ensure transparency, all the algorithms are open source. And for privacy reasons the saved data will be anonymized on our servers and are completely deleted within 2 weeks according to the incubation timeline of the virus.
What's next for Endemic
Endemic is not only a solution for Covid-19 pandemic. Endemic aims to be used for all next pandemics that could happen. We are currently working to integrate Endemic in France's official app for covid tracing. To make sure we can gather all data that already exist to have an efficient contract tracing and help organizations to open their spot providing a contactless experience at the same time, here are the next steps we want to work on :
- Integration with all existing applications
- Consume exposed data from laboratories
- Publish Endemic's OpenAPI as a ServiceAPI on FusionFabric.cloud
- Integrate with testing sites.
- Get QR code ready spaces just for tracing
- Integration with all payment rails
- Finding adoption from WHO and aim for a global support.
Isn’t it too late?
Endemic’s goal is to help for current and future pandemics. We know that the covid-19 is mutating and the vaccination efficiency is not proven for it yet and anyway the herd immunity is planned to be achieved within 2 years. Thus, masks will stay and so does the need to follow the covid contact tracing.
What is the difference with official apps ?
Endemic doesn’t want to replace or remove the official apps, it is a complement to raise their data usage.
In addition, Endemic doesn’t focus only on the users but brings driver and incentive for business to implement it as it is API based.
Why would restaurant or Museum use Endemic?
More than restaurant or museum, Endemic can be used by any businesses where there is a physical user experience. It provides a contactless experience and a frictionless follow-up of consumers, zero hassle, no effort. For the clients, the vouched and well used app is reassuring.
What does Endemic use to “identify” a person ?
As of today, users are identified with their email or phone number. In the future, we will add the device fingerprint using JS Canvas Drawing, to improve the user experience.
How does the matching algorithm work ?
We consider as covid exposure when one is in the same spot as a positive case of covid within one hour before and after in an open environment or two hours in a closed place.
How do you manage privacy ?
Endemic’s model is to use useful existing data without being intrusive. Data are encrypted on server side and we use salted hash for validation of users.
Data are completely deleted within 2 weeks according to the incubation timeline of the virus.
Is ENDEMIC going to share data with Social Network ?
Endemic’s main mission is to help ending the pandemic not make money using collected data. The code is open source for transparency reasons, so you can check anytime.
How can I access the service without being “tracked” by Endemic ?
You can opt-out by sending a post mail to an address in Alaska
What is the business model?
Endemic is created for good, but need to be remunerated to be alive. That's why ready-to-use templates are provided through monetized service.
What is the environmental impact?
Endemic is paperless and avoid food waste but increasing restaurant occupancy.
What is the benefits for Finastra?
Endemic aims to be a published service API in FFDC, so there is no core and it can be scaled fast. So that, Endemic can be used by all FFDC customers and it is an opportunity for FFDC to have API for good.