Pinoy app addressing pandemic impact wins NASA’s Space Apps Covid-19 Challenge

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A public policy information portal measuring the impact of the coronavirus pandemic developed by Filipinos has won the Space Apps Covid-19 Challenge — a special edition of NASA’s annual Space Apps Challenge, an international hackathon that takes place around the world and online every October.

Data analysts Nick Tobia, Kristel Joyce Zapata, Theresa Rosario Tan, Miguel Oscar Castelo, and Helen Mary Barrameda from Team CirroLytix won the Space Apps Covid-19 Challenge

Team CirroLytix created a dashboard for policy makers and economic planners using Earth observation, in-country economic and human mobility data, and global infection case counts to show the impact of Covid-19 on various countries and effects on the economy and environment.

The portal, dubbed GIDEON (Global Impact Detection from Emitted Light, Onset of Covid-19, and Nitrogen Dioxide), uses news feeds, Google mobility data, and coronavirus cases to reveal the multi-dimensional impact of lockdown and other interventions.

Aside from having a global winner, two Pinoy teams also made it as global finalists too.

Inspired by social isolation experienced by astronauts in space, Snail Space (a wordplay for snail’s pace) is an app giving a “safe space” by providing mental care and comfort during times of social isolation brought by Covid-19 pandemic. It was developed by Celestial Snails team comprised of Arturo Caronongan III, Kevin Olanday, In Yong Lee, Mary Anne Dominique Casacop, and Gabriel Santiago from De La Salle University.

The other Pinoy team, Sentinellium, leverages user data sent through SMS and chat, and space assets like population density, urbanization, and aerosol to provide a more accurate prediction of developing epidemics. The app was created by Harlee Quizzagan, James Andrew C. Cornes, Angela Chua, Alaica Mariño, Joal Rose Lin, and Mohammad Ashraful Mobin.

Pinoy global finalists Celestial Snails and Sentinellium

“The use of these modern and advanced technologies will be crucial, especially as the world navigates the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Using big data, cloud, and AI applications for instance, could help us understand the severity of the disease and aid in delivering measures to mitigate its impact,” Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) undersecretary for competitiveness and innovation Rafaelita M. Aldaba.

“This really fills me with great optimism that our young and talented startups and Filipinos have so much to offer and contribute to our efforts to provide solutions to address health and economic crisis,” she said.

Last May 30-31, 2020, coders, entrepreneurs, and technologists were invited to a virtual global hackathon by the United States space agency National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA), along with the European Space Agency (ESA), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the National Centre for Space Studies (CNES) of France, and Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

During a period of 48 hours, more than 15,000 participants from 150 countries created more than 2,000 virtual teams. Participants used Earth observation and other open data to propose solutions 12 challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

GIDEON is one of the six global winners selected by NASA, ESA, JAXA, CSA, and CNES, and one of the three teams shall have special access to the Euro Data Cube environment. If travel is deemed safe, winners shall also be invited to visit a NASA site to view a spacecraft launch. However, travel, accommodation, and food costs are not included.

Lead organizer Michael Lance M. Domagas is appealing support for the current and past winners, finalists, and especially to the four-year community who worked so hard in bringing honor for the country.

“After being recognized by five leading space agencies of the planet, its time for our own country to show appreciation and give support for those who are stepping forward in combating the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects in our society today to defeat our common enemy,” he said.

Previous Pinoy hackathon winners are Project AEDES (2019), using satellite and climate data to pinpoint possible dengue hotspots, and ISDApp (2018), which uses citizen science data to inform fishermen the right time to catch fish.

Since 2012, teams have engaged with NASA’s free and open data to address real-world problems on Earth and in space. Space Apps 2019 included more than 29,000 participants in 71 countries, developing more than 2,000 hackathon solutions over one weekend. This NASA-led initiative is organized in collaboration with Booz Allen Hamilton, Mindgrub, and SecondMuse. The next annual Space Apps Challenge is scheduled for October 2-4, 2020 in a virtual format. Registration opens August 15 at this site.

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