Seattle teenagers debut SMS text alert service for COVID-19 stats, set sights on screening tool

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A passenger's body temperature is being tested at the gate of entry upon arrival at the Murtala International Airport in Lagos, on March 2, 2020. - Nigeria is monitoring 58 people who had contact with an Italian man infected with the new coronavirus, the health minister said Monday, as officials scrambled to stop the disease spreading. Africa's most populous country on Friday confirmed the first case of the virus in sub-Saharan Africa after the patient was diagnosed in the economic hub Lagos. (Photo by BENSON IBEABUCHI / AFP) (Photo by BENSON IBEABUCHI/AFP via Getty Images)

Two University of Washington students just released a SMS COVID-19 tracker and have plans for a coronavirus screening tool.

Nikolas Ioannou and Sage Khanuja are the teenagers behind Spira, which debuted the text-based service this week. Users will receive daily coronavirus updates, including information on deaths, cases, recoveries, and even reminders for hand washing and staying home. The data comes from Worldometer, a site that pulls numbers from official government reports and reliable news sources.  

The young entrepreneurs are also working on a COVID-19 screening tool that encourages people who may be experiencing flu-like symptoms to answer a quick questionnaire. The two hope to expand their technology to record coughs of their users, which will be analyzed using a custom machine learning algorithm.

Ioannou said it’s not meant to replace the actual COVID-19 test, but rather as an “informative datapoint.”

“Depending on the output of the machine learning model, we would adjust the patient’s urgency to get a screening test,” he said.

Ioannou and Khanuja met this past May at the UW and shortly after established Spira, derived from the word “respiratory.” They began designing a prototype to screen for respiratory diseases and developed a 3D printed device with a digital stethoscope and a LCD touch screen that lets users answer questions and record their breathing. Results would then be displayed on the screen.

The device was originally supposed to be deployed in low-income countries, but after speaking at CES in Las Vegas, the students were approached by several telehealth companies, including New York-based Teladoc Health, that wanted to integrate their technology into an easy-to-use application programming surface.

That’s when Spira officially became a company and released an app screening for 95% of all respiratory diseases, including asthma, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and more. The app uses a phone’s microphone to conduct a cough and auscultation test, according to Spira’s website.

Spira has raised $15,000, including $7,500 from the UW’s Health Innovation challenge.

Ioannou was named GeekWire’s Geek of the Week in November. He released previous apps that helped people identify and learn how to properly dispose of waste.

Source: Geek Wire

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