Illinois ECE researchers behind effort to develop app for detecting nearby COVID-19 cases

5/29/2020 Joseph Park, Illinois ECE

Illinois ECE Professor Sanjay Patel is leading an Alchemy team to develop an app that would allow for users to determine if they were near any positive cases of COVID-19 in preparation for re-opening campus for the fall semester.

Written by Joseph Park, Illinois ECE

Sanjay Jeram Patel
Sanjay Jeram Patel

Illinois ECE Professor Sanjay Jeram Patel, Sony Faculty Scholar, is leading an Alchemy team funded by the C3S3 to integrate and develop digital contact tracing capabilities into RokWire as part of the initiative to re-open the campus for residential instruction in the fall.  Alchemy is a technology foundry program in which students work with faculty, external advisors, and partner companies to build technology, pilot it with potential partners, and successfully deploy their ideas.

The team consists of six Illinois ECE undergraduates and is also supported by Illinois ECE faculty members Andrew Miller, Jinjun Xiong, and Wen-mei Hwu

According to an article from The News-Gazette, the University of Illinois plans on testing all students who return in the fall for COVID-19.  To aid in the re-opening of campus, the university will be providing access to a mobile app that can determine if the user was near somebody who tested positive for the virus. The university will set up a center at the College of Veterinary Medicine to test 1,000 to 10,000 people a day. 

"Right now, we are using code that Professor Sanjay Patel, his colleagues, and students have written," said William Sullivan, the director of the Rokwire Initiative which is the software platform for the university's official smartphone app. "If we don't get that entitlement (from the state), we'll use the functionality that Professor Patel and his team have built."

Sullivan also hopes to have the app connect with McKinley Health Center, Carle, and OSF to transfer test results. Users of the app will be able to self-report any symptoms and unverified test results which will trigger different recommendations from local health departments. Patel is also affiliated with the CSL.

Read more from The News-Gazette here

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This story was published May 29, 2020.