How Municipalities Across the United States Are Approaching Contact Tracing

Developers, companies, and governments are working collaboratively and individually to bring out their best efforts at contact tracking and tracing. The mechanism for tracing varies from country to country, and even region to region. This article takes a closer look at tracing tools and apps used in the United States.

The most powerful API currently on offer is a collaborative effort from Apple and Google. The Apple Exposure Notification APITrack this API and Android Exposure Notification APITrack this API was launched as a qualified open-access tool, with the proviso that any developers must pass a rigorous screening process to qualify for use. Coronavirus/Covid-19 apps not using the Apple-Google API must pass an equally rigorous screening process to make it onto the app store for either platform, as well as providing proof that the app is a release from an official health organization or government.

Alternative tracing tools in use include GPS, Bluetooth, and voluntary logging of data (such as location, symptoms, and test results). As of today, the majority of states are opting for these alternatives, with the idea that centralized data from these tools is a more secure option than the globally available Apple/Google API.

The information provided in this article is current as of July 2020. However, tracker apps are a moving target: this means that apps are evolving daily, sometimes rolling back, and sometimes never making it out of beta. Meanwhile, before most states have so much as agreed upon how to begin work on an app, the U.S. Senate is working on a bipartisan bill called the Exposure Notification Privacy Act. We’ll check back in with updates to this information whenever possible.

While no states have active apps using the Apple/Google API, two states have apps in production where developers have announced publicly their plan to use the API: Washington and North Dakota.

The app in development for the state of Washington is a collaboration between academics, doctors, and private sector developers, where “doctors and researchers at the University of Washington with Microsoft volunteers have built a tool to alert you about highly relevant public health announcements, potential exposure to COVID-19.” The development team is also working in collaboration with the Apple/Google effort. This tool is in transition to full open-source availability.

The other app in development planned for use with the Apple/Google Exposure Notification System API is in development for North Dakota. The state of North Dakota already has a tracking app called Care19, launched in April of this year. Care19 was developed in collaboration with the North Dakota Department of Health, and Tim Brookins, a Principal Engineer at Microsoft, by repurposing his NDSU sports fan tracking site “ProwdCrowd.”  The Care19 app has since been licensed for use in South Dakota and another undisclosed state.

With the first Care19 app live, North Dakota has the bandwidth to explore the use of a second app built with the Apple/Google API. While the second, decentralized app is still in development, the first app is doing a bit of housekeeping, per the Washington Post. “Care19’s maker, Tim Brookins of ProudCrowd, told me the app uses a Foursquare service called Pilgrim SDK to convert the location data it collects as latitude and longitude into the names of recognizable places. “The Care19 application user interface clearly calls out the usage of Foursquare on our ‘Nearby Places’ screen, per the terms of our Foursquare agreement,” Brookins wrote in an email. “We will be working with our state partners to be more explicit in our privacy policy.” Brookins also said they would clarify privacy policy language about how it shares data to conduct diagnostics.

States with pending launches are slowly taking public stances about their plans for contact tracing apps. Alabama and South Carolina have confirmed that they have agreements in place to use the Apple/Google framework.

Most states currently not participating in the use of the Apple/Google framework are making a broad effort to keep an open dialogue about the possible future use. In a letter from two Maryland attorneys general to the CEOs of Apple and Google, “while digital contact tracing and exposure notification tools are valuable in understanding the spread of COVID-19 and assisting public health authorities, these same technologies pose a risk to consumers’ privacy.” The letter was co-signed by attorneys general from 38 other U.S. states and provinces.

There is a state-by-state effort underway to develop individual contact tracing apps. Virginia has leveraged a framework originally designed to track opioid use and abuse to include an expansion to contact tracing. Rhode Island has launched a GPS-based tracker called CRUSH Covid RI. Utah has launched Healthy Together, which already has 45,000 users (2% of the states total population).

Most recently underway is the extremely ambitious project from the Association of Public Health Laboratories, where they plan to build a national COVID-19 exposure notification server, which will run securely on Apple and Google’s API and be hosted by Microsoft. Another sprawling plan comes from the Linux Foundation Public Health (LFPH), where development is underway to build globally available open-source tech to provide access to testing, tracing, and isolation activities, all with open source technology. LFPH has also debuted two hosted exposure notification projects dubbed COVID Shield and COVID Green.

Progress with contact tracing apps is ongoing, with new apps launching, rolling back, and entering development regularly. We encourage our readers to engage in the comments section below with any new or updated information.

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Author: <a href="">Katherine-Harrison-Adcock</a>


Media Feeds API for Chrome Would Enable Recommended Video Feeds

Google Chrome is in the early stages of developing a tool that would bring YouTube-like video recommendation feeds to most any website that has the content to support one. The fresh feature has already found its way to Canary builds of Chrome, where it lets people see what videos are queued up next.

A commit titled “Enables Media Feeds” recently added to the Chromium Gerrit. According to the description, it “enables the Media Feeds feature, which allows us to fetch feeds of media items from websites that support the feature.” How does the proposed Media Feed API function? 

Websites that have video content would, in effect, be able to generate a feed of that content and serve it up to visitors to or registrants of the website. The feed would live in the browser, where site users could view and interact with it. 

“To improve the functionality of [media controls], we want to be able to add support for sites to recommend media content to a user that might be completely new or they might be something the user has started watching,” said the description of the API. “This allows us to deliver a much better experience to users.”

As far as what that experience is, think no further than YouTube or Netflix, which has new videos just a quick tap away waiting to be watched. Three distinct tools would live in the API. First, Chrome could recommend related or relevant content, suggest users continue watching a video they already started, or simply play the next piece of content in the queue. 

Google hasn’t revealed much else about the fledgling API, and in fact, much of the documentation has been pulled from public view. Some limitations were, however, spelled out: the API targets video only, so music or other audio content (think podcasts) are not supported.

While the Media Feeds API works its way through Canary builds of Chrome, website developers would do well to test its functionality to see if it can be put to use on their own web pages. After all, it won’t be of much use if there’s no content to support it once it reaches beta or live status. 

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Author: <a href="">EricZeman</a>

3D Printing Industry

15 industrial and academic partners come together for “breakthrough” POLYLINE project

The 4th of May saw the launch of the POLYLINE project, a lighthouse project that will bring together 15 industrial and research partners from across Germany to develop a digitalized AM production line. The automated production line will focus on 3D printing serial polymer parts for the automotive sector. By complementing traditional manufacturing techniques with […]

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Author: Kubi Sertoglu


Applying mathematics to accelerate predictions for capturing fusion energy

A key issue for scientists seeking to bring the fusion that powers the sun and stars to Earth is forecasting the performance of the volatile plasma that fuels fusion reactions. Making such predictions calls for considerable costly time on the world’s fastest supercomputers. Now researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) have borrowed a technique from applied mathematics to accelerate the process.

The technique combines the millisecond behavior of fusion plasmas into longer-term forecasts. By using it, “we were able to demonstrate that accurate predictions of quantities such as plasma temperature profiles and heat fluxes could be achieved at a much reduced computational cost,” said Ben Sturdevant, an applied mathematician at PPPL and lead author of a Physics of Plasmas paper(link is external) that reported the results.

Fusion combines light elements in the form of plasma — the hot, charged state of matter composed of free electrons and atomic nuclei — that generates massive amounts of energy. Scientists are working around the world to create and control fusion on Earth for a virtually inexhaustible supply of safe and clean power to generate electricity.

Speeding simulations

Sturdevant applied the mathematical technique to the high-performance XGCa plasma code developed by a team led by physicist C.S. Chang at PPPL. The application greatly speeded up simulations of the evolving temperature profile of ions orbiting around magnetic field lines modeled with gyrokinetics — a widely used model that provides a detailed microscopic description of the behavior of plasma in strong magnetic fields. Also accelerated was modeling the collisions between orbiting particles that cause heat to leak from the plasma and reduce its performance.

The application was the first successful use of the technique, called “equation-free projective integration,” to model the evolution of the ion temperature as colliding particles escape from magnetic confinement. Equation free modeling aims to extract long-term macroscopic information from short-term microscopic simulations. The key was improving a critical aspect of the technique called a “lifting operator” to map the large-scale, or macroscopic, states of plasma behavior onto small-scale, or microscopic, ones.

The modification brought the detailed profile of the ion temperature into sharp relief. “Rather than directly simulating the evolution over a long time-scale, this method uses a number of millisecond simulations to make predictions over a longer time-scale,” Sturdevant said. “The improved process reduced the computing time by a factor of four.”

The results, based on tokamak simulations, are general and could be adapted for other magnetic fusion devices including stellarators and even for other scientific applications. “This is an important step in being able to confidently predict performance in fusion energy devices from first-principles-based physics,” Sturdevant said.

Expanding the technique

He next plans to consider the effect of expanding the technique to include the evolution of turbulence on the speed of the process. “Some of these initial results are promising and exciting,” Sturdevant said. “We’re very interested to see how it will work with the inclusion of turbulence.”

Coauthors of the paper include Chang, PPPL physicist Robert Hager and physicist Scott Parker of the University of Colorado. Chang and Parker were advisors, Sturdevant said, while Hager provided help with the XGCa code and the computational analysis.

Support for this work comes from the Exascale Computing Project, a collaborative effort of the DOE Office of Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration, and Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing (SciDAC). Computer simulations were performed at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), a DOE Office of Science User Facility.

Story Source:

Materials provided by DOE/Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. Original written by John Greenwald. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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With SF under lockdown, we face the classic desert island problem: what to bring, when you might not get to leave the house for a few weeks… or months? Alex walks us through her magic lunchboxes.

Stuck inside? What’s in your "lunchbox?" Let us know in the comments!

// M5Stick:


Add Increased Functionality to Your Arduino and Raspberry Pi with TinyCircuits’ Whiskers

Open source electronics maker TinyCircuits has launched a crowdfunding campaign to bring their tiny Whisker add-on boards to the market. The boards act in a similar fashion to Raspberry Pi HATs and Arduino shields, adding everything from sensors to 9-axis IMUs.

“Whiskers are tiny, low-cost, and to top it all off — they are compatible with TinyCircuits boards, standard Arduino boards, and Raspberry Pi boards. Over 30 Whisker boards have been developed with many more planned in the future!”

The Whiskers connect to the Pi/Arduino/TinyDuino via a 5-pin cable, which means there is no soldering required, making it easy to attach to new or existing projects. Of course, to use the Whiskers with those boards, they need a HAT/shield adapter, which is outfitted with the necessary jacks to add up to four additional boards. They are also equipped with a 4-channel multiplexer, RTC, and onboard voltage regulation and level shifting.

TinyCircuits state they have developed over 30 Whisker boards — including a myriad of sensors (accelerometer, 9-axis IMU, color, VOC, etc.), Hall effect switch, Hall effect sensor, IR receiver, I/O expansion, LRA vibration motor, various-sized displays, and rotary switch. There is even a MEMS microphone board, audio amplifier, NFC reader, breakout board, pulse oximeter, and a host of others in the arsenal.

Beyond Whisker boards, TinyCircuits offers a pair of processor platforms that were designed for low-cost Whisker projects, such as the WhiskerZero, which features a Microchip SAM D21 MCU, USB connectivity port, power management, and battery charger. Tiny Circuits’ other processor board, the RobotZero, was designed for robotic projects and features four Whisker connectors, two motor ports, an IMU, as well as a SAM D21 MCU.

TinyCircuits is currently crowdfunding their Whiskers on Kickstarter with pledges starting at $25 for the Basic Kit, which comes with your choice of Pi HAT, Arduino shield, or WhiskerZero adapter boards, digital Hall sensor board, RGB LED board, rechargeable battery, 0.42-inch display, light sensor, buzzer, programmable button, and six Whisker cables.

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Author: Cabe Atwell