Winning “Hack from Home” team develops app-“Health Traffic Light”-aiming to slow spread of COVID-19

A computer programmer looks at a screen of code

Global virtual hackathon gathered more than 800 worldwide to tackle the spread of COVID-19

Health Traffic Light, a project formed by a multidisciplinary team of designers, data scientists and academics-including members of the Case Western Reserve University and the Weatherhead School of Management community-has won Hack from Home, a global virtual hackathon that was established to create technology-based solutions to fight the spread of COVID-19.

The global hackathon brought together 822 participants from 62 countries to deliver 28 projects that can be scaled into solutions to fight COVID-19. The projects were designed around three core themes: mass data mobility, citizen science and community health.

The winning project, Health Traffic Light, is an international risk identification system that has proposed a privacy-preserving technology to identify individual exposure to the virus.

By tracking self-reported symptoms and networks of citizens that may have been exposed to the virus, Health Traffic Light can keep tabs on the effects of COVID-19 in a population without the possibility of governments or organizations maintaining access to their information after the crisis.

This is achieved by using personal data accounts, rather than storing citizens’ data in local smartphone storage that could still be accessed after the pandemic.

The winning team is now collaborating with HAT-LAB and Dataswift to develop their idea and bring it into production.

Case Western Reserve University’s xLAB, HAT-LAB, NHSX, The Ethical Tech Alliance and others were among the partners organizing the event, which took place remotely earlier this month. The main sponsor was Dataswift, a company aiming to enable businesses to deliver legal ownership and control of personal data to their customers through personal data accounts.

Youngjin Yoo, xLab founder and a professor of design and innovation at the Weatherhead School, was a member of the Health Traffic Light team along with five other CWRU community members.

Youngjin Yoo
Youngjin Yoo

“We needed to bring bright minds together to address the complex and rapidly evolving problems our world is facing,” said Yoo. “I am so proud and humbled by the global response to the hackathon and our project, Health Traffic Light.”

In addition to Yoo, CWRU faculty members involved include Amy Sheon, executive director of the Urban Health Initiative at the School of Medicine, and Dustin Tyler, the Kent H. Smith Professor II of Biomedical Engineering at the Case School of Engineering.

“The reason we brought together leaders and innovators from across the global technology community is that there is a clear opportunity for tech solutions to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Irene Ng, CEO of Dataswift.

More than 25 CWRU alumni, students, emeriti faculty, and staff participated on project teams or as mentors throughout the weekend.

Another team composed of CWRU members was Hi:5 Hand Hygiene Assistant. The idea originated from infection prevention advocate Shainana Knighton, an instructor at KL2 Clinical Research School in the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing. The app aims to help with promoting, facilitating and improving hand hygiene for a healthier connected world.

Other top projects will receive $6,500 combined, provided by Just One Giant Lab. These projects include:

  • AI For Good Simulator Covid-19 Refugee Camp Solutions-An agent-based simulation of the spread of COVID-19 disease within refugee camps.
  • Scandi- A health services solution that captures ID sources and test kit information alongside other device information to store as a Healthcare Passport for live geographic analysis and forecasts.
  • Delivery Angels-An app to self-organize local delivery to those who are vulnerable or symptomatic in their local community.

“I hope that Health Traffic Light can successfully build and scale the product, to ultimately slow the spread of COVID-19 without compromising our individual rights and privacy.” Ng said. “Our goal is to achieve a positive outcome for society but in a wholesome and ethical way.”


Story by Amanda Knauer (amanda.knauer@case.edu)

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