Using cellular networks to detect at-risk areas for spread of COVID-19

added 30.06.2020 21:47

Led by Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Edwin Chong, the team is drawing on data from existing cellular wireless networks to pinpoint potential hotspots for increased viral transmission.

Knowing that COVID-19 is easily spread by individuals in close proximity, Chong and his team developed a method that helps them identify the most crowded areas with hustle and bustle, such as a city center, where asymptomatic carriers have a higher probability of coming into close contact with large numbers of healthy people.

Because practically everyone carries a cell phone nowadays, they aim to understand how mobile device users move and gather over time in an area by leveraging what are known as handover and cell (re)selection protocols - the cellular network technologies that allow us to move about freely with our mobile devices without losing service.

Using data collected through these networks, Chong's team measures handover and cell (re)selection activity, called HO/CS rates, to calculate localized population density and mobility.

"Our findings could help risk managers with planning and mitigation," said Chong, a leading researcher in cellular wireless networks who has expertise in risk management.