Pinoy-made dengue case predictor system wins in NASA hackathon

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A dengue case forecasting system using space data made by Filipino developers recently won in NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge.

Photo shows (upper row, from left) Associate American Corner librarian Donna Lyn G. Labangon, Space Apps global leader Paula S. Bontempi, former DICT usec. Monchito B. Ibrahim, Animo Labs executive director Federico C. Gonzalez, DOST-PCIEERD deputy executive director Raul C. Sabularse, PLDT Enterprise vice president Joseph Ian G. Gendrano, lead organizer Michael Lance M. Domagas, and Animo Labs program manager Junnell E. Guia, (lower row, from left) Dominic Vincent D. Ligot, Frances Claire Tayco, Mark Toledo, and Jansen Dumaliang Lopez of Aedes project

With over 29,000 entries from 71 countries, the Pinoy solution made it as one of the six winners in the “best use of data”, which is given to entries that make space data accessible or leverages it to a unique application.

Dengue fever is a viral, infectious tropical disease spread primarily by Aedes aegypti female mosquitoes. With 271,480 cases resulting in 1,107 deaths reported from January 1 to August 31, 2019 by the World Health Organization.

The team of Dominic Vincent D. Ligot, Mark Toledo, Frances Claire Tayco, and Jansen Dumaliang Lopez from CirroLytix developed a forecasting model of dengue cases using climate and digital data, and pinpointing possible hotspots from satellite data.

Potential dengue hotspots are shown in a Web interface by correlating information from Sentinel-2 Copernicus and Landsat 8 satellites, as well as climate data from PAGASA and trends from Google search engines.

Using satellite spectral bands like green, red, and near-infrared (NIR), indices like Fraction of Absorbed Photosynthetically Active Radiation (FAPAR) and Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) are calculated in identifying areas with green vegetation while Normalized Difference Water Index (NDWI) identifies areas with water.

Combining these indices reveal potential areas of stagnant water capable of being breeding grounds for mosquitoes, extracted as coordinates through a free and open-source cross-platform desktop geographic information system QGIS.

“AEDES aims to improve public health response against dengue fever in the Philippines by pinpointing possible hotspots using Earth observations,” Dr. Argyro Kavvada of NASA Earth Science and Booz Allen Hamilton, explained.

Raul C. Sabularse, deputy executive director of the DOST’s Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD), said the winning solution “benefits the community especially those countries suffering from malaria and dengue, just like the Philippines. I think it has a global impact. This is the new science to know the potential areas where dengue might occur. It is a good app.”

Monchito B. Ibrahim, industry development committee chairman of the Analytics Association of the Philippines and former undersecretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, said the app is very relevant to the Philippines and other tropical countries which usually have problems with dengue.

“The team was able to show that it’s not really difficult to have all the data you need and integrate all of them and make them accessible to everyone for them to be able to use it. It’s a working model,” Ibrahim said.

DOST secretary Fortunato de la Peña said he is elated on the second victory for the Philippines in global competition. The first winning solution ISDApp uses “data analysis, particularly NASA data, to be able to help our fishermen make decisions on when is the best time to catch fish.”

ISDAapp is currently being incubated by Animo Labs, the technology business incubator and Fab Lab of De La Salle University in partnership with DOST-PCIEERD. Project AEDES will be incubated by Animo Labs, too.

Winners shall be invited to visit the NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at Florida in the following months.

University president Br. Raymundo B. Suplido FSC said he hopes that the NASA Space Apps would “encourage our young Filipino researchers and scientists to create ideas and startups based on space science and technology, and pave the way for the promotion and awareness of the programs of our own Philippine space agency.”

Vice President Leni Robredo recognized Space Apps as a platform “where some of our country’s brightest minds can collaborate in finding and creating solutions to our most pressing problems, not just in space, but more importantly here on Earth.”

In the Philippines, Space Apps is a NASA-led initiative organized in collaboration with De La Salle University, Animo Labs, DOST-PCIEERD, PLDT InnoLab, American Corner Manila, US Embassy, software developer Michael Lance M. Domagas, and celebrates the Design Week Philippines with the Design Center of the Philippines of the Department of Trade and Industry. It is globally organized by Booz Allen Hamilton, Mindgrub, and SecondMuse.

Space Apps is NASA’s incubator innovation program. The next Space Apps hackathon will be on October 2-4, 2020.

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