Syu Kato poses for a photo in Hawaii.
Curbing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic rests on knowing where infected people have been and who they've come in contact with so they can be tested and treated.
Like many teens, 16-year-old Syu Kato loves skateboarding, Bruno Mars and hamburgers. But he's putting his knack for programming to good use.
Kato has designed an iPhone software application that uses GPS so individuals can keep their own records of their whereabouts in their mobile phone, to help with such contact tracing.
Called Asiato, for "footprint," the app keeps track of a phone's movements within a distance of 10 meters (33 feet) or more. An English version of the app is available free from the iPhone App Store.
The app works like a diary, but keeps track of locations. To protect privacy, the data is stored in the phone and is not automatically shared.
If a person discovers they have COVID-19, Asiato identifies where they've been in the past several weeks. They would need to reach out on their own to people they may have infected, or inform health authorities if asked.
Under Japan's pandemic state of emergency, citizens are asked, not ordered, to stay home. Keeping track of their movements remains a crucial way to help control the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
It also could be used elsewhere as economies reopen around the world, Kato said.
Kato got an early start in putting his knack for programming to good use. In the fifth grade, he designed a mathematics application to do division that gives the remainder as a number for the answer, not decimal points.
While in sixth grade, he developed a program for writing book reports. The 240 yen (about $2) program simplifies the process and no cheating is involved, he says.
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Yu Ukai, who heads the foundation’s youth efforts, said he was impressed with Kato’s passion and the speed with which he identifies problems and comes up with solutions.
Kato’s new project is setting up a website for restaurants and customers to share menus and other takeout information.
Tokyo and other major cities have Uber Eats and other services. But in places like Hokkaido, northern Japan, where Kato lives, it’s harder for people stuck at home to find options for food takeout or delivery.
Such a site would also help hard-hit restaurants find customers.
As face coverings become the norm amid the coronavirus pandemic, Japanese startup Donut Robotics has developed an internet-connected "smart mask" that can transmit messages and translate from Japanese into eight other languages.
Healthcare experts have stressed that this is the time to embrace emerging healthcare technologies such as telemedicine. Participating in the Advance Health webinar organised by the Dubai Science Park to address the COVID-19 pandemic, they noted that as an international business and events hub, the UAE has robust procedures to manage health and safety and respond swiftly to outbreaks of infectious diseases.
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