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Automated contact tracing assessment

Published in:
MIT Lincoln Laboratory Report TR-1287

Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic placed unprecedented demands on the global public health systems for disease surveillance and contact tracing. Engineers and scientists recognized that it might be possible to augment the efforts of public health teams, if a system for automated digital contact tracing could be quickly devised and deployed to the population of smartphones. The Private Automated Contact Tracing (PACT) protocol was one of several digital contact tracing proposals offered worldwide. PACT’s mission—to preserve individuals’ privacy and anonymity while enabling them to quickly alert even nearby strangers of a likely risky exposure—was adopted by Google and Apple and realized in the Exposure Notifications (EN) service and API for mobile application development. The Exposure Notifications system, like many digital proximity tools, is based on Bluetooth signal strength estimation, and keeps much of the necessary information and computation on the smartphones themselves. It implemented a decentralized approach to contact tracing: the public health authority, and other governmental authorities, cannot access the records of an individual’s encounters with others; nor is physical location used or shared by the service. Although the service is available on most modern iOS and Android devices, it is not enabled by default; the individual must opt in to use a particular region’s implementation of the service, either by installing the regional app or by enrolling through a menu of regions in the operating system settings. Likewise, individuals must affirm their consent before the service can share anonymized infection status with the regional public health authority, and alert recent close contacts. The widespread availability of Exposure Notifications through Apple and Google’s platforms has made it a de facto world standard. Determining its accuracy and effectiveness as a public health tool has been a subject of intense interest. In July 2020, CDC’s Innovative Technologies Team designated MIT LL and the PACT team as trusted technical advisors on the deployment of private automated contact tracing systems as part of its overall public health response to COVID-19. The Innovative Technologies Team sought to answer the following key question regarding automated contact tracing: Does automated contact tracing have sufficient public health value that it is worthwhile to integrate it at scale into existing and evolving manual contact tracing systems? Rapidly rising caseloads necessitated parallel-path assessment activities of most mature systems at the time. When access to the Google and Apple Exposure Notifications system became available, MIT LL focused the assessment efforts on the systems being built and deployed. There were two immediate and significant challenges to observing and quantifying the performance of the system as a whole: first, the privacy preserving design decisions of PACT and the system implementers denied access to system-level performance metrics, and second, obtaining accurate “ground truth” data about risky encounters in the population, against which to measure the detector performance, would require an unacceptable level of effort and intrusion. Therefore, MIT LL designed a set of parallel research activities to decompose the problem into components that could be assessed quantifiably (Bluetooth sensor performance, algorithm performance, user preferences and behaviors), components that could be assessed qualitatively (potential cybersecurity risks, potential for malicious use), and components that could be modeled based on current and emergent knowledge (population-level effects). The MIT LL research team conducted early assessments of the privacy and security aspects of new EN app implementations and closely reviewed the available system code exercised by the apps, before conducting a series of phone-to-phone data collections both in the laboratory and in simulated real-world conditions. The data from these experiments fed into models and visualization tools created to predict and understand the risk score output of candidate “weights and thresholds” configurations for EN, i.e., to predict the performance of the system as-built against ground truth data for distance and duration of “exposure”. The data and performance predictions from this effort helped to inform the global and local community of practice in making configuration decisions, and can help to predict the performance of future versions of similar tools, or alternative implementations of the current system. We conducted a human factors and usability review of early app user interfaces and messaging from public health, and designed a follow-on large-scale survey to investigate questions about user trust and system adoption decisions. The results of the human factors, user trust, and adoption studies were used by U.S. public health jurisdictions to make adjustments to public-facing communications, and were shared with Apple and Google to improve the user interface. Information gathered from public health experts enabled us to better understand conventional contact tracing workflows and data streams, and we incorporated that information into an agent-based model of “hybrid” contact tracing plus Exposure Notifications. We then combined it with emerging reports on vaccination, mask effectiveness, social interaction, variant transmissibility, and our own data on the sensitivity and specificity of the Bluetooth “dose” estimator, to predict system-level effects under various conditions. Finally, we helped to establish a network of Exposure Notifications “practitioners” in public health, who surfaced desirable system-level key performance indicators (implemented during 2021 and 2022, in the Exposure Notifications Private Analytics system, or ENPA). At the conclusion of the program, many of the initial conditions of the pandemic had changed. The Exposure Notifications service was available to most of the world, but had only been deployed by 28 U.S. states and territories, and had not been adopted by much of the population in those regions. High case rates during the Omicron surge (December 2021 – January 2022) and newly available ENPA data offered the first hints at calculating “real” state-level performance metrics, but those data belong to the states and many are cautious about publishing. Although Google and Apple have stated that Exposure Notifications was designed for COVID-19, and will not be maintained in its current form after the pandemic ends, the public health and engineering communities show clear interest in using the “lessons learned” from Exposure Notifications and other similar solutions to preserve the capabilities developed and prepare better systems for future public health emergencies. The intent of this report is to document the work that has been completed, as well as to inform where the work could be updated or adapted to meet future needs.
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Summary

The COVID-19 pandemic placed unprecedented demands on the global public health systems for disease surveillance and contact tracing. Engineers and scientists recognized that it might be possible to augment the efforts of public health teams, if a system for automated digital contact tracing could be quickly devised and deployed to...

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Multimodal physiological monitoring during virtual reality piloting tasks

Summary

This dataset includes multimodal physiologic, flight performance, and user interaction data streams, collected as participants performed virtual flight tasks of varying difficulty. In virtual reality, individuals flew an "Instrument Landing System" (ILS) protocol, in which they had to land an aircraft mostly relying on the cockpit instrument readings. Participants were presented with four levels of difficulty, which were generated by varying wind speed, turbulence, and visibility. Each of the participants performed 12 runs, split into 3 blocks of four consecutive runs, one run at each difficulty, in a single experimental session. The sequence of difficulty levels was presented in a counterbalanced manner across blocks. Flight performance was quantified as a function of horizontal and vertical deviation from an ideal path towards the runway as well as deviation from the prescribed ideal speed of 115 knots. Multimodal physiological signals were aggregated and synchronized using Lab Streaming Layer. Descriptions of data quality are provided to assess each data stream. The starter code provides examples of loading and plotting the time synchronized data streams, extracting sample features from the eye tracking data, and building models to predict pilot performance from the physiology data streams.
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Summary

This dataset includes multimodal physiologic, flight performance, and user interaction data streams, collected as participants performed virtual flight tasks of varying difficulty. In virtual reality, individuals flew an "Instrument Landing System" (ILS) protocol, in which they had to land an aircraft mostly relying on the cockpit instrument readings. Participants were...

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Axon tracing and centerline detection using topologically-aware 3D U-nets

Published in:
2022 44th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society (EMBC), 2022, pp. 238-242

Summary

As advances in microscopy imaging provide an ever clearer window into the human brain, accurate reconstruction of neural connectivity can yield valuable insight into the relationship between brain structure and function. However, human manual tracing is a slow and laborious task, and requires domain expertise. Automated methods are thus needed to enable rapid and accurate analysis at scale. In this paper, we explored deep neural networks for dense axon tracing and incorporated axon topological information into the loss function with a goal to improve the performance on both voxel-based segmentation and axon centerline detection. We evaluated three approaches using a modified 3D U-Net architecture trained on a mouse brain dataset imaged with light sheet microscopy and achieved a 10% increase in axon tracing accuracy over previous methods. Furthermore, the addition of centerline awareness in the loss function outperformed the baseline approach across all metrics, including a boost in Rand Index by 8%.
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Summary

As advances in microscopy imaging provide an ever clearer window into the human brain, accurate reconstruction of neural connectivity can yield valuable insight into the relationship between brain structure and function. However, human manual tracing is a slow and laborious task, and requires domain expertise. Automated methods are thus needed...

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Fun as a strategic advantage: applying lessons in engagement from commercial games to military logistics training

Summary

Digital games offer many elements to augment traditional classroom lectures and reading assignments. They enable players to explore concepts through repeat play in a low-risk environment, and allow players to integrate feedback given during gameplay and evaluate their own performance. Commercial games leverage a number of features to engage players and hold their attention. But do those engagement-improving methods have a place in instructional environments with a captive and motivated audience? Our experience building a logistics supply chain training game for the Marine Corps University suggests that yes; applying lessons in engagement from commercial games can both help improve player experience with the learning environment, and potentially improve learning outcomes.
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Summary

Digital games offer many elements to augment traditional classroom lectures and reading assignments. They enable players to explore concepts through repeat play in a low-risk environment, and allow players to integrate feedback given during gameplay and evaluate their own performance. Commercial games leverage a number of features to engage players...

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COVID-19 exposure notification in simulated real-world environments

Summary

Privacy-preserving contact tracing mobile applications, such as those that use the Google-Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) service, have the potential to limit the spread of COVID-19 in communities, but the privacy-preserving aspects of the protocol make it difficult to assess the performance of the apps in real-world populations. To address this gap, we exercised the CovidWatch app on both Android and iOS phones in a variety of scripted realworld scenarios, relevant to the lives of university students and employees. We collected exposure data from the app and from the lower-level Android service, and compared it to the phones' actual distances and durations of exposure, to assess the sensitivity and specificity of the GAEN service configuration as of February 2021. Based on the app's reported ExposureWindows and alerting thresholds for Low and High alerts, our assessment is that the chosen configuration is highly sensitive under a range of realistic scenarios and conditions. With this configuration, the app is likely to capture many long-duration encounters, even at distances greater than six feet, which may be desirable under conditions with increased risk of airborne transmission.
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Summary

Privacy-preserving contact tracing mobile applications, such as those that use the Google-Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) service, have the potential to limit the spread of COVID-19 in communities, but the privacy-preserving aspects of the protocol make it difficult to assess the performance of the apps in real-world populations. To address this...

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The Simulation of Automated Exposure Notification (SimAEN) Model

Summary

Automated Exposure Notication (AEN) was implemented in 2020 to supplement traditional contact tracing for COVID-19 by estimating "too close for too long" proximities of people using the service. AEN uses Bluetooth messages to privately label and recall proximity events, so that persons who were likely exposed to SARS-CoV-2 can take the appropriate steps recommended by their health care authority. This paper describes an agent-based model that estimates the effects of AEN deployment on COVID-19 caseloads and public health workloads in the context of other critical public health measures available during the COVID-19 pandemic. We selected simulation variables pertinent to AEN deployment options, varied them in accord with the system dynamics available in 2020-2021, and calculated the outcomes of key metrics across repeated runs of the stochastic multi-week simulation. SimAEN's parameters were set to ranges of observed values in consultation with public health professionals and the rapidly accumulating literature on COVID-19 transmission; the model was validated against available population-level disease metrics. Estimates from SimAEN can help public health officials determine what AEN deployment decisions (e.g., configuration, workflow integration, and targeted adoption levels) can be most effective in their jurisdiction, in combination with other COVID-19 interventions (e.g., mask use, vaccination, quarantine and isolation periods).
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Summary

Automated Exposure Notication (AEN) was implemented in 2020 to supplement traditional contact tracing for COVID-19 by estimating "too close for too long" proximities of people using the service. AEN uses Bluetooth messages to privately label and recall proximity events, so that persons who were likely exposed to SARS-CoV-2 can take...

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Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Data Collection for COVID-19 Exposure Notification

Summary

Privacy-preserving contact tracing mobile applications, such as those that use the Google-Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) service, have the potential to limit the spread of COVID-19 in communities; however, the privacy-preserving aspects of the protocol make it difficult to assess the performance of the Bluetooth proximity detector in real-world populations. The GAEN service configuration of weights and thresholds enables hundreds of thousands of potential configurations, and it is not well known how the detector performance of candidate GAEN configurations maps to the actual "too close for too long" standard used by public health contact tracing staff. To address this gap, we exercised a GAEN app on Android phones at a range of distances, orientations, and placement configurations (e.g., shirt pocket, bag, in hand), using RF-analogous robotic substitutes for human participants. We recorded exposure data from the app and from the lower-level Android service, along with the phones' actual distances and durations of exposure.
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Summary

Privacy-preserving contact tracing mobile applications, such as those that use the Google-Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) service, have the potential to limit the spread of COVID-19 in communities; however, the privacy-preserving aspects of the protocol make it difficult to assess the performance of the Bluetooth proximity detector in real-world populations. The...

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Detection of COVID-19 using multimodal data from a wearable device: results from the first TemPredict Study

Summary

Early detection of diseases such as COVID-19 could be a critical tool in reducing disease transmission by helping individuals recognize when they should self-isolate, seek testing, and obtain early medical intervention. Consumer wearable devices that continuously measure physiological metrics hold promise as tools for early illness detection. We gathered daily questionnaire data and physiological data using a consumer wearable (Oura Ring) from 63,153 participants, of whom 704 self-reported possible COVID-19 disease. We selected 73 of these 704 participants with reliable confirmation of COVID-19 by PCR testing and high-quality physiological data for algorithm training to identify onset of COVID-19 using machine learning classification. The algorithm identified COVID-19 an average of 2.75 days before participants sought diagnostic testing with a sensitivity of 82% and specificity of 63%. The receiving operating characteristic (ROC) area under the curve (AUC) was 0.819 (95% CI [0.809, 0.830]). Including continuous temperature yielded an AUC 4.9% higher than without this feature. For further validation, we obtained SARS CoV-2 antibody in a subset of participants and identified 10 additional participants who self-reported COVID-19 disease with antibody confirmation. The algorithm had an overall ROC AUC of 0.819 (95% CI [0.809, 0.830]), with a sensitivity of 90% and specificity of 80% in these additional participants. Finally, we observed substantial variation in accuracy based on age and biological sex. Findings highlight the importance of including temperature assessment, using continuous physiological features for alignment, and including diverse populations in algorithm development to optimize accuracy in COVID-19 detection from wearables.
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Summary

Early detection of diseases such as COVID-19 could be a critical tool in reducing disease transmission by helping individuals recognize when they should self-isolate, seek testing, and obtain early medical intervention. Consumer wearable devices that continuously measure physiological metrics hold promise as tools for early illness detection. We gathered daily...

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Alternative cue and response modalities maintain the Simon effect but impact task performance

Published in:
Appl. Ergon., Vol. 100, 2022, 103648.

Summary

Inhibitory control, the ability to inhibit impulsive responses and irrelevant stimuli, enables high level functioning and activities of daily living. The Simon task probes inhibition using interfering stimuli, i.e., cues spatially presented on the opposite side of the indicated response; incongruent response times (RT) are slower than congruent RTs. Operational applicability of the Simon task beyond finger/hand manipulations and visual/auditory cues is unclear, but important to consider as new technologies provide tactile cues and require motor responses from the lower extremity (e.g., exoskeletons). In this study, twenty participants completed the Simon task under four conditions, each combination of two cue (visual/tactile) and response (upper/lower-extremity) modalities. RT were significantly longer for incongruent than congruent cues across cue-response pairs. However, alternative cue-response pairs yielded slower RT and decreased accuracy for tactile cues and lower extremity responses. Results support operational usage of the Simon task to probe inhibition using tactile cues and lower-extremity responses relevant for new technologies like exoskeletons and immersive environments.
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Summary

Inhibitory control, the ability to inhibit impulsive responses and irrelevant stimuli, enables high level functioning and activities of daily living. The Simon task probes inhibition using interfering stimuli, i.e., cues spatially presented on the opposite side of the indicated response; incongruent response times (RT) are slower than congruent RTs. Operational...

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Individuals differ in muscle activation patterns during early adaptation to a powered ankle exoskeleton

Published in:
Applied Ergonomics Volume 98, January 2022, 103593

Summary

Exoskeletons have the potential to assist users and augment physical ability. To achieve these goals across users, individual variation in muscle activation patterns when using an exoskeleton need to be evaluated. This study examined individual muscle activation patterns during walking with a powered ankle exoskeleton. 60% of the participants were observed to reduce medial gastrocnemius activation with exoskeleton powered and increase with the exoskeleton unpowered during stance. 80% of the participants showed a significant increase in tibialis anterior activation upon power addition, with inconsistent changes upon power removal during swing. 60% of the participants that were able to adapt to the system, did not de-adapt after 5 min. Muscle activity patterns differ between individuals in response to the exoskeleton power state, and affected the antagonist muscle behavior during this early adaptation. It is important to understand these different individual behaviors to inform the design of exoskeleton controllers and training protocols.
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Summary

Exoskeletons have the potential to assist users and augment physical ability. To achieve these goals across users, individual variation in muscle activation patterns when using an exoskeleton need to be evaluated. This study examined individual muscle activation patterns during walking with a powered ankle exoskeleton. 60% of the participants were...

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