Amidst the Pandemic: A Year of COVID-19 Initiatives and Activities from DOST-ASTI
16 March 2021 - In the middle of March 2020, the Philippine government declared a nationwide community quarantine upon confirming the local transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus or COVID-19. The Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) came as a challenge for everyone, encouraging every public and private institution to adjust their standard operating procedures (SOPs) in delivering services. Furthermore, government and non-government agencies need to ensure that the people are given the best services despite the situation.
As a Research and Development Institute (RDI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the DOST Advanced Science and Technology Institute (DOST-ASTI) was up to the challenge to continuously provide quality R&D initiatives and services to its partners and stakeholders. Despite the implementation of alternative work arrangements (AWA), the productivity at DOST-ASTI remained efficient.
For the past year, DOST-ASTI had been progressive in supporting, partnering, and even spearheading activities and initiatives concerning COVID-19, through its R&D projects, services, and facilities.
DEVELOPMENT OF THERMAL SCANNER
DOST-ASTI has developed three types of thermal scanners that use a medical-grade sensor for use by COVID-19 front liners. The first type was the Modified Wood Moisture Meter retrofitted with a thermal sensor, an existing product co-developed with DOST - Forest Products Research and Development Institute (DOST-FPRDI) and Alexan. The other two types are small devices that can be attached to smartphones using typical wire interfaces and/or with wireless/Bluetooth interfaces.
MOBILIZATION OF SATELLITE IMAGES
The Philippine Earth Data Resource Observation (PEDRO) Center and Remote Sensing and Data Science Help Desk (DATOS) Project are continuously working on the deployment of satellite images to monitor areas of interest during the implementation of community quarantine protocols, with the help of the Computing and Archiving Research Environment (COARE) and Philippine Research, Education, and Government Information Network (PREGINET) service facilities.
COVID-19 OPERATIONS CENTER MONITORING SYSTEM FOR LGU
The OpCen Monitoring Platform is a contact tracing system and data platform developed to illustrate the interaction between confirmed patients, PUIs and PUMs up to the barangay level. It also provides prescriptive information on areas with frequent cases via location history. The site serves as a central repository of information for consolidation from different sources.
As of February 2021, the DOST-ASTI deployed the Cebu City OpCen Dashboard. Now, it is easier and more accurate to monitor, update, and view data, while avoiding delay in data acquisition for the Cebu City LGU.
Computing and Archiving Research Environment (COARE)
As early as the first week of working under ECQ, the Computing and Archiving Research Environment (COARE) has volunteered to allocate a portion of its high-performance computing resources to Folding@Home for its COVID-19 related computer simulations. The COARE has also supported the Philippine Genome Center - Core Facility for Bioinformatics (PGC CFB) to host its computing needs for studies and activities related to COVID-19. These involve phylogenetic analysis, computational studies, evolutionary analysis, and in silico detection of SARS-CoV-2.
The Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance Using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler for Early Detection of Diseases (FASSSTER), a project led by Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) and funded by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), received facility support from the COARE. The FASSSTER project now has access to satellite images and geospatial data from the PEDRO Center and several virtual servers (Cloud) used for their predictive models and as a data warehouse.
Other projects provisioned with several virtual servers and access to High-Performance Computing facility (HPC) of COARE are TanodCOVID and BantayCOVID. Meanwhile, the CovCheck web app of UP Cebu and research efforts on COVID-19 vaccine and drug discovery by UP Diliman are both given access to graphics processing unit (GPU) servers.
RESEARCH AND EDUCATION NETWORK INFRASTRUCTURE
The PREGINET is continuously up and running to provide network infrastructure that enables research data transfers of all DOST-ASTI COVID-19 related activities. It also supports the UP PGC and Department of Health (DOH) activities on COVID-19 while participating in global and regional efforts on COVID-19 by sharing its computing resources.
AI-BASED DETECTION OF SOCIAL DISTANCING VIOLATION FROM CCTVs
As of November 2020, the DOST-ASTI finished developing a system that automatically flags social distancing violations from CCTV feeds.
The DOST-ASTI has also conducted several online technology transfer webinars in collaboration with different DOST Regional Offices and Universities to introduce ASTI-developed technologies ready for adaption. Online events were also live-streamed to connect with the public and update about current innovations in R&D. Some these were:
- Our Place In Space Press Briefing (in collaboration with STAMINA4Space)
- DATA BREW 4: Space and Ground Data for the Betterment of the Human Condition
- SAR with AIS Virtual Press Briefing
- Using an Industry-Grade and Open-Source Platform for Robotics
- Business Process Management (BPM) in the Government
- DOST Electronics Product Development Center Webinar
- DOST-ASTI Tech Transfer Webinar
- SAR with AIS Stakeholders’ Meeting
Aside from all these efforts by the DOST-ASTI, several of its on-going and new projects continue to be focused on by its researchers and staff to make sure that the agency continues to stay true to its vision, mission, and goals amidst the global pandemic caused by COVID-19.