A team of design scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) have developed a new Covid-19 application to determine the rate of spread of Covid-19 in a place.
Aimed at policymakers, the app “Covid-19 Comparative Data Analytics” provides a mathematical analysis on where the pandemic might be headed using case numbers.
“You can’t predict the future of the pandemic with this app because the moment you start talking about predictions, you start getting into absolutes, into blacks and whites. This app gives you a mathematical analysis of the spread of the disease, thus giving you the means to analyse where the pandemic is headed,” said Assistant Professor Pradipta Biswas at the Institute’s Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing (CPDM).
The app, which has been operational since April 15, is focused on India but covers other nations as well.
The findings for Karnataka are not comforting: the speed of the spread of the disease (as of April 17) has gradually increased by 27% from April 1. This indicates the rate of spread will continue to increase in coming days.
In comparison, the rate of spread in Kerala, which is almost on par with Karnataka in terms of positive cases so far, has seen a drop of over 22%.
The application calculates spread by dividing the duration of spread, based on the rate of increase of cases, Dr Biswas explained.
Data on all current cases in India and worldwide is pulled automatically by the application from two authoritative sources: for India, from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s “Covid-19 India” website; and for other countries, from a GitHub site which tracks worldwide data from over fifty portals and sites, plus the Worldometer website which collates worldwide coronavirus figures.
The application runs the data (the total number of deaths, the total number of confirmed cases per day, the deaths per day) through its process, dividing the duration of the disease spread based on the rate of increase of cases.
“This results in an exponential curve, which is not very good for analysis or prediction considering that the disease is not spreading uniformly in all states,” Dr Biswas said.
At this point, a special “Knee Detection Algorithm,” a 2011 mathematical function invented by American and Indian-origin mathematicians in the United States, comes into play.
“This algorithm breaks the exponential curve into a multi-linear curve, which gives us the rate of the spread for the disease. The data is useful for comparing phases of spread across different states or countries,” Dr Biswas said.
“All of this is done in real-time,” he added.
The web app was developed in remote collaboration with several IISc students and staff, including Kamal Preet Singh Saluja, Somnath Arjun, Jeevithashree D V and L R D Murthy of Dr Biswas’ I3D Lab.