China fights COVID with ‘one database, code and platform,’ UAE goes with auras
Biometric COVID-19 fever apps are making news again, in two cities, and in very novel ways.
Meanwhile, privacy advocates who objected to the initial rush to deploy remote sensors to spot fevers are probably as unhappy at this news as anyone who thinks the coronavirus has been tamed.
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, reportedly has scanned more than 20,000 people in a pilot project using mobile phones that reportedly can record the electromagnetic waves emanating from a person’s face.
The waves, according to the UAE government, change in the presence of molecular-scale COVID RNA particles.
Abu Dhabi health officials reportedly say the pilot showed scanners detect a difference in electromagnetic energy 90.3 percent to 93.5 percent of the time (depending on who is reporting), and are 83 percent accurate in identifying people who are uninfected.
There is some controversy about the accuracy of UAE’s claims.
In pictures, the so-called Exponential Deep Examination, or EDE, scanners appear to be ordinary mobile phones held by uniformed men.
They were developed, according to the publication The Quint, by the EDE Research Institute, Abu Dhabi, which is associated with the International Holding Co.
People with machine-learning scanners have been posted at public gathering places around the city, reading RNA emissions from anyone within 15 feet. Those failing the test must take a COVID test within 24 hours.
Indian publication Mint reports an Abu Dhabi resident as saying a guard told him the device was checking electromagnetic emissions but also performing a biometric scan to check if he was vaccinated or had recently taken a PCR test.
According to Gulf News, the UAE government considers this is one of its three primary rapid testing schemes. The other two are DNA-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and diffractive phase interferometry (DPI), tests, which are laser-based.
China, which pioneered the use of facial recognition systems as a weapon in the fight to contain COVID, unfortunately is breaking out devices again.
But it appears that China has created a novel systems architecture underpinning the facial recognition hardware that some in the West might want to consider.
A fourth outbreak of the pandemic has swamped the rural city Ruili in far southwestern China, on the border with strife-ridden and impoverished Myanmar.
What is interesting from a technological perspective is that Ruili boasts something called “one database, one code, one platform,” according to an article in the Chinese cultural publication Sixth Tone.
The city has a COVID command center and, as with all of populated China, a blanket of cameras that monitor citizens, including their body temperature. And that network is tied into many digital devices that control access around Ruili and across the border — right down to door locks and road barriers, reports Sixth Tone.
Based on the report, it would appear that the city operates something perhaps approximating a single-vendor closed system. Doubtless there are multiple vendors involved, but the name alone indicates a great deal of top-down marching orders.
That kind of setup can be easier to deploy, operate and manage than one that is a web of interoperating systems, a portion of which might be proprietary.
One downside would be that a single vulnerability could bring the whole thing down. On the other hand, from a Western privacy perspective, it likely would be easier to force coherent, top-to-bottom ethics conditions.