PETALING JAYA: Universiti Malaya’s researchers have come up with the country’s first infrared (IR) digital thermometer that can collect real time data.
The Internet of Things (IoT) innovation can be used to predict and detect Covid-19 hotspots in real time and it is expected to be ready for testing by next week.
The team led by Prof Dr Ng Kwan Hoong from the Faculty of Medicine and Assoc Prof Dr Nahrizul Adib Kadri from the Faculty of Engineering includes Assoc Prof Dr Yeong Chai Hong from Taylor’s University and engineers Darween Reza Sabri and Ricky Liew from a local startup.
Darween Reza, a UM alumnus, designed and made the first prototype.
Prof Ng, who came up with the concept design on March 18, was motivated by the increasing Covid-19 incidents and the shortage of IR digital thermometers in local hospitals.
In 2018, Prof Ng became the first scientist from a developing country to receive the International Organisation for Medical Physics Marie Sklodowska-Curie Award, which honours scientists who have contributed to education, training and the advancement of the profession.
“When the movement control order ends, imagine tens of thousands of students returning to universities, colleges and schools.
“Access to affordable, quality devices and tracking these students will be a problem. We wanted to come up with a solution, ” he said.
Prof Nahrizul Adib said that with the IoT-enabled device, each person screened could be tracked to build up a database of individual temperatures spatially and temporally, and the pattern could be analysed with big data.
Work to develop the prototype – Sauna32 – started on March 23.
Chargeable with a USB port, the device runs on a 32-bit microprocessor, which can be used with IoT-connected devices such as mobile phones via a Bluetooth connection.
The device costs less than RM150, excluding development and labour costs.
The team is sourcing for funds to produce 1,000 units to be distributed to government agencies and non-governmental organisations.
“With 3D printing, we can do this in three weeks, at a cost of about RM150,000, ” said Prof Nahrizul Adib, who is applying for a RM50,000 innovation research grant from UM to produce 20 IoT-ready devices.
“The second generation device, which will be ready by next week, can be used to collect temperature and geographical data, which can be uploaded to cloud computing for big data analytics using Bluetooth technology. It operates like a weather prediction device, ” he added.
For example, he said the Meteorological Department could predict the weather not just for the day but for any date in the future by using past data – dates, time of day, temperature, humidity and a specific algorithm or mathematical equation.
“In the case of this pandemic, the rate of Covid-19 infections in Wuhan (China), Italy, Spain, the United States and other parts of the world can be correlated with the prevalence of individuals who are feverish in a given area.
“We will then come up with a mathematical equation that may predict whether a certain area will become a hotspot, ” Prof Nahrizul Adib said.
On the issue of personal data protection, he said for the device to be used on patients, more testing, data validation and safety standard certifications from the authorities, including the Health Ministry and Sirim, were needed.
“For clinical trials, the device may be used on patients. The privacy of those involved in a research is safeguarded by UM’s clinical ethics committee, ” he said, adding that while commercialisation of the device could take up to two years, the team’s immediate goal was to help stem the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
The ministry’s Medical Device Authority said the innovation must comply with the Medical Device Act 2012.
“The device must be registered before it can be marketed.
“The company that produces and distributes it will need to have an establishment licence, ” it said.