GeauxTrace: Professor Lu Peng of LSU’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and a group of ECE undergraduate and graduate students have created a COVID-19 contact-tracing mobile app that alerts users if they have come into contact with someone who has recently tested positive for the virus.
GeauxTrace, which stands for Geaux Tracking App, uses Bluetooth signal strength to calculate the distance between users’ smartphones to create a personal ‘COVID-19 Contact Map.’ The map provides users with information about where they’ve been in relation to someone else who might be infected.
The GeauxTrace app has received an $888,642 grant from the National Institutes of Health. In addition to GeauxTrace, four other virus-related projects have been awarded funding under a joint initiative between NIH and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).
The app can be utilized by individuals, but they do not need to register any personal information. Rather, the app generates a random number from their phone as an ID and broadcasts it in the background; making it harder for hackers to access private data.
“My group has been working on Blockchain-related projects for a few years,” Peng said. “Our previous work is about how we can use Blockchain to protect data, and I was thinking of using Blockchain, which can highly encrypt user data and prevent it from being hacked. So why not use this technology for a COVID-19 map?”
“My app has been tested successfully by more than 100 volunteers. Basically, our research work has been done. The main purpose [in releasing] the app is to mitigate the spread of the virus and help the community.”, Peng said.
Peng explains that the decentralized technique protects an individual’s privacy while also making it more difficult for hackers to access private information.