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COVID-19: How Geotagging Photos Is Helping Chennai Track the Virus

The app is available on Android in the city and takes care of both quarantine and non-quarantined patients.

Published
Tech News
3 min read
COVID-19: How Geotagging Photos Is Helping Chennai Track the Virus
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Tamil Nadu has been proactive in efforts to control the spreading of the coronavirus but still, the region has reported over 300 positive cases.

And in order to keep a check on the number of people catching fever, Chennai’s Ministry has come up with a mobile app that can be used for geotagging those who’re affected in various parts of Chennai.

Geotag is basically an electronic identification tag that assigns a geographical location to a photograph or video. The process is called geotagging.

The app called the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) Corona Monitoring is available on Android and they are working on its iOS version as we speak. It has been created by M P Azhagu Pandia Raja, who works for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, and a team of volunteers from a firm called Mr. Cooper.

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Speaking to The Quint, Raja said the app has been developed so that anybody with high fever can click a selfie and send it to the authorities to know their exact location.

The app is being advertised by the city’s corporation, who tweeted it out on Thursday.

We have seen other regions in the country also deploying similar tech solutions to track people but Raja shared an interesting observation that clearly differentiates his product from others.

“Most cities are only monitoring people who are quarantined. They are using their location and putting a geo-fencing around them. We started looking for data to see where the fever spread has already happened. For this, if anybody has COVID-19 like fever symptoms, they have to take a selfie (or photo of their door) and send it which will give us their latitude and longitude.”  
M P Azhagu Pandia Raja to The Quint
Snapshot

How it Works?

  • If you are in Quarantine, take a selfie and share. This will help the authorities know your exact location for any emergency needs.
  • Fever Symptoms- Anyone (both quarantine and non-quarantine people) with general fever symptoms can take a selfie and share. The doctors will connect with you.

Using Technology for a Cause

The method used by the Chennai Corporation is a mix of technology and old-school ways of using foot soldiers to meet the affected on the ground.

“Our doctors will call that person (those sending the photo), and check to see whether he has symptoms of the virus. If multiple people from the same locality report having fever, the Ministry will send its team to their houses, and check the possibility of community spread.” 
M P Azhagu Pandia Raja to The Quint
Register your mobile number, click a photo and your details are captured.
(Photo: Corona Monitoring app screen grab)
“Through this we will get the geo-spatial spread of fever symptoms and can take immediate actions.”  
M P Azhagu Pandia Raja to The Quint
Raja mentions with a high smartphone penetration in the city, making the app and its use case successful is 99 percent guaranteed. He even points that at least one member in a family in Chennai owns a smartphone. 

Making an Impact

He says the app has been registered over 12,000 downloads since its release on 27 March and they’re hoping to hit the 1 lakh mark in the next three to four days.

But Raja points out even though it has been downloaded by just 12,000 people, the app has already helped them reach over 50,000. So if they can hit the targeted 1 lakh figure, his team would have done a commendable job.

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But it’s hard to not talk about privacy concerns with apps like these. Raja says even though the app seeks your permission to access camera, location and device storage, none of the content leaves the device without the person’s consent. “We are not tracking the person all the time. We only get access to location data when you send the photo,” he explains.

The impact of this app has impressed the Ministry, and he says they are now looking at the possibility of scaling up and in fact taking it to other cities in the country, who can redesign the app according to their needs.

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