Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

KT research deploys IoT to fight epidemics

Steve Rogerson
May 19, 2020



Korea Telecom has announced a three-year research study funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for global epidemic response using IoT, artificial intelligence (AI) and big data.
 
The $10m project stems from the recognition of South Korea's information and communication technology (ICT) as well as its ability to cope with the on-going coronavirus pandemic.
 
The three-year research collaboration builds off discussions between the Gates Foundation and KT in 2019 and the research will be conducted in South Korea, which possesses a high mobile phone penetration rate and 5G infrastructure.
 
"With this contribution from the Gates Foundation, KT hopes to enhance our opportunity to lead the global effort towards outbreak prevention and response by taking advantage of AI and big data," said Jeon Hongbeom, head of KT's AI business unit. "We also expect to contribute further to the Republic of Korea's capabilities for epidemic response and preparedness, which has already been globally recognised."
 
With Gates Foundation grant funding, KT will develop big data algorithms to improve early-diagnosis based on AI during an epidemic and prediction of viral infections spread using mobile data. Research expenses will be divided equally between the two organisations.
 
"The use of mobile technology and sensors paired with smart data analysis can help address some of the challenges countries face in timely and effective response to disease outbreaks," said Andrew Trister, deputy director of digital health innovation at the Gates Foundation. "Knowing where a disease is moving and being able to predict spread can help save time and save lives. We're pleased to be providing co-funding alongside Korea Telecom for this consortium of research partners. These will be valuable learnings for South Korea, and applicable to other geographies."
 
The collaboration between KT and the Gates Foundation on improving global health has its origins at the data innovation working group by the World Economic Forum in 2018. Since then, the organisations have discussed collaboration on innovative epidemic response using ICT. In April 2019, KT introduced its Global Epidemic Prevention Platform (GEPP) to prevent the spread of infectious diseases using mobile data, at the ICT forum hosted by Research Investment for Global Health Technology Fund (Right Fund), South Korea's first funding agency dedicated to global health R&D through the partnership between the Korean government, life science companies and the Gates Foundation. This facilitated the discussions between the parties resulting in this three year partnership.
 
The project calls for KT first to develop a mobile app to input automatically symptoms typically associated with viral infections. An IoT body temperature sensor will be among the tools. Symptoms and body temperature will be analysed with AI to create an algorithm that will calculate the probability of infection.
 
KT will also use mobile data to examine human mobility patterns and regions with epidemics to determine the direction of the infection spread. At the same time, it will analyse virus trends by region and develop forecasting models to predict seasonal outbreak for each region.
 
KT expects the research will contribute to global management of epidemics and pandemics. Technically, it will sound an alarm when an infectious disease appears to help prevent massive outbreaks and improve chances of treatment and survival through self-testing.
 
Korea University Hospital will be tasked with analysing pathogen genome sequencing. Korea Institute of Science & Technology Information will provide forecasting models of viral inflow and proliferation. Mobile Doctor will add conducting app-based diagnostic data analysis. And MediBloc will develop a blockchain-based platform for sharing user data.
 
South Korea's ICT infrastructure has made decisive contributions to the tract-tracing of virus infection as well as social distancing through work from home, remote education and teleconferencing. Those who are infected are isolated at home and monitored through a smartphone app for self-quarantine safety protection.
 
In the wake of the 2015 outbreak of Mers (Middle East respiratory syndrome), KT developed its GEPP service with the Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the Ministry of Science & ICT. The multifunction platform warns of epidemic outbreaks and offers relevant information to travellers while tracing their movement to help stop disease transmission.