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New feature on Google Maps aids in the fight against Coronavirus

Mounir Jamil

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New feature on Google Maps aids in the fight against Coronavirus

A new feature on Google Maps now allows for users to get around safely during the Coronavirus pandemic. More than 11 million people have contracted the virus worldwide, and almost 500,000 have died according to the Johns Hopkins University. Countries worldwide have adopted different restrictions depending on the severity of the outbreak, which has caused numerous travel complications.

Ramesh Nagarajan, Google Maps product management director commented. “As countries around the world adapt, we are committed to bringing users the most pertinent information right to their fingertips, so when you’re ready and able to, you can safely venture out.”

The new feature on Google Maps collects data from national and local governments and agencies and alerts users to pertinent information. It also sports other updates:

Restriction alerts

Google Maps users will now receive driving alerts that notify them of COVID-19 checkpoints while crossing national borders, also the varying restrictions across their routes.

Users will now see the alert on the directions screen if they are entering an area that is impacted by restrictions, like mask mandate or social distancing regulations. These alerts are currently available in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Testing alerts

If a user is headed towards a medical facility or a Coronavirus testing center, they will receive alerts that remind them of eligibility and facility guidelines. These alerts are available in the US, South Korea, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Public transit alerts

When using Google Maps to navigate public transportation in an area affected by Covid-19 restrictions, travelers will receive alerts from local transit agencies with reminders of regulations, like mask requirements or if government mandates are impacting transit services.

When users are using Google Maps to navigate public transportation in an area with COVID-19 restrictions, travelers will receive alerts from local transit agencies that remind them of the regulations. These alerts are rolling out in Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Belgium, Colombia, France, Mexico, India, Spain, Netherlands, Thailand, UK and the US.

Junior social media strategist with a degree in business. Passionate about technology, film, music and video games.

MedTech

Top 3 Innovative Solutions against COVID-19

Mounir Jamil

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Innovative Solutions

Humanitarian needs have reached their highest levels in decades – and the pandemic is only causing these levels to further increase. According to estimates from the World Food Program (WFP), 256 million people could be pushed to the edge of starvation by 2020-year end. In response, humanitarian agencies are driving innovative solutions against COVID-19. We’ve highlighted some of them.

The need for mobile money solutions and blockchain

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humananitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that it will take US$90 billion to help the most vulnerable people survive. One of the best innovative solutions to alleviate this problem is through cash assistance, as this technology puts money directly into the hands of beneficiaries that know best what they need when a disaster strikes. Cash is easiest to handle and transfer, allows for greater flexibility, and gives support to local markets. Humanitarian agencies currently already deliver US$4.7 billion in cash and vouchers to people in crisis each year. These agencies are now studying how to increase this number by switching between in-kind and cash delivery, or a mixture of both. 

Yemen has adopted mobile money recently as part of its innovation solutions against COVID-19. Other governments are also transferring money to citizens in need. 

Using remote technologies to deliver aid 

3D printing, blockchain and drones are all part of the innovative solutions humanitarian agencies are deploying to overcome travel restrictions and risks of spreading the virus. Drones are being put to use by many companies, governments, and humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance and medical support. 

In Rwanda, Zipline uses drones to deliver medical supplies across the country and to bring testing samples to labs back in Ghana. The system works in the following way: a health worker sends a text to order supplies and drones collect and deliver them from the distribution center. The drones can carry up to 1.8Kg of cargo and can travel at a speed of 90 miles per hour. 

In parallel, blockchains are being used to permit multiple partners to remotely track and provide the flow of cash for assistance. 

OCHA win Cameroon has collaborated with the Ministry of Health, the engineering school Polytechnique, and with the Israeli Embassy to support the 3D printing of masks and respirators for frontline healthcare workers. 

Utilizing maps, modelling missing data 

Aid agencies are using data to generate real time interactive maps for situational analysis as part of their innovative solutions against COVID-19. These maps include but are not limited to, the World Health Organization (WHO) real time coronavirus caseload dashboard, WFP’s Hunger Map LIVE that predicts hunger in real time, the school-feeding map that displays the impact of school closures on hunger, and the Humanitarian Data Exchange’s COVID-19 pandemic dashboard tracking cases in 25 countries. In addition to these maps, satellite imagery is being layered with vulnerability data that allows the detection and identification of high-risk areas. 

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MedTech

The importance of OPSEC during COVID-19

Adnan Kayyali

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OPSEC during COVID-19

Though the origins of OPSEC (Operations Security) began with the military, in our digital age, it encompasses private and public sectors alike. OPSEC during COVID-19 is an especially delicate matter. It refers to the process of assessing and protecting critical, sensitive, or otherwise classified data secure from adversary groups. The difference between OPSEC and InfoSec is that the former includes information as well as the security of people and their physical assets.

OpSec is taken especially seriously in the military, as it can mean the difference between victory and defeat, and the loss of life. In the Ukrainian and Syrian wars for example, soldiers taking selfies of themselves and posting them on social media exposed themselves to geolocation, thereby compromising their locations. In one case, a picture was used by their adversary to pinpoint the exact coordinates of a military base, sending a devastating airstrike soon after.

Why is OPSEC during COVID-19 especially sensitive? Because teamwork across all industries is being done remotely, often from home or a public space, where many digital fronts are more vulnerable than they would be in a controlled physical environment, and with a closed secure network.

“While government and military agencies are of the utmost importance,” Michael Fritzlo, Executive Chairman, Ironsphere, said in an interview with Pandemic Tech News, “the OPSEC principles established by top commanders with the rise of digital systems over the last several decades also apply to financial service institutions, healthcare providers, insurance companies, and more,”

Studies have shown that a number of cybersecurity breaches come from within a company, either by accident, through phishing for example, or with an insider employee working with competitors. In a world as interconnected as ours, data breaches can ruin a company, not only shaking its competitive edge, but also its customers’ trust.

“The definition [of OPSEC] continues to evolve and depends on each agency or enterprise’s mission and offering, but given the massive growth of cyberattacks, OPSEC is impossible to do well without software automation and AI” explains Fritzlo.

As institutions continue to expand their capabilities in OPSEC during COVID-19, it is possible that we will see a spike in automated cybersecurity adoptions. Entities that wish to retain the integrity of their information systems are forced to think outside the office.

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MedTech

Can the NHS COVID-19 app infringe police work?

Mounir Jamil

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NHS COVID-19 App

The National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) has confirmed officers are being told not to install the NHS COVID-19 app on their work smartphones.

The NHS COVID-19 app detects when users have been around or in close proximity to someone that has Coronavirus. 

Some of the officers have also been told they may not even need to obey self-isolation notifications and alerts that are generated by the app when they use it on their personal phones. Instead, Lancashire Constabulary advised staff to use the force’s own COVID-19 helpline.

News agencies in London such as the BBC have contacted the North-West England force after finding out through sources that the advice had been issued for security reasons. 

The source in question also said that officers were told not to carry their personal phones while on duty if they had previously activated the app. This applies to staff that are working in back-office positions as well public-facing roles.

In a statement, the NPCC confirmed that work-phone policy is common among all forces and that they are currently undergoing an urgent review of the matter. 

A spokesperson for council said that “police forces use a variety of mobile devices with different system restrictions”. He added, “It is important that we have confidence that the NHS app will work for officers and staff consistently across the country, and it is for this reason that we have recommended that officers and staff download the app to their personal, as opposed to work devices, rather than any suggestion of security implications.”

The NPCC might drop the policy as soon as early next week. The NHS COVID-19 app launched last Thursday and has since been downloaded more than 12 million times.

NPCC had previously voiced concerns about officers sharing information with human contact tracers on the field as it might compromise undercover work and several other sensitive operations. 

However, since the NHS COVID-19 app is designed to keep people’s identities anonymous, this shouldn’t be a problem in this case. 

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