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'New Prox app helps public to combat virus spread'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

New Zealand medical technology company, Prox Bio Limited, is today launching a new digital weapon in the war against Covid-19. Prox is a free mobile social distancing app that aims to help the public slow the rate of viral transmission.

The app follows a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study that suggests the recommended two-metre social distancing may need to be four times bigger to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

Prox Bio founder, Mr Peter Montgomery, says Prox is an easy-to-use education tool to help and incentivise people to keep their distance and reduce their risk of viral infection.

"Prox is designed to help people see clearly how well they are practicing their social distancing, how much interaction they’ve had over time, the level of risk they’ve been exposed to - or will potentially expose themselves to - and how good their ratings are in terms of those interactions.

"Prox rates users in relation to their social interactions to provide simple easy-to-understand ratings of their exposure risks. It provides a clear visual understanding of the contact risks around us and allow us to make better decisions to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe," he said.

Using an amalgamation of five different sensing technologies, Prox detects nearby smartphones and automatically and anonymously records the number of personal interactions and distance (near or far) from your smartphone’s location.

With visuals and graphs, you can see at a glance your Prox risk profile change in real-time as the app records your personal proximity contacts. You can also review trends over a two-week period.

"Another key feature of Prox allows you to connect with others, such as your family and close contacts, so you can monitor and check their risk profiles online as well. For added peace of mind, this is an especially ideal tool for essential service workers," said Mr Montgomery.

Critically, until a contact tracing mobile solution is viable, Prox’s anonymous and aggregate proximity measurements could be communicated to Health authorities - allowing them to compare real-time social distancing trends and contact analytics on a local, regional and national level, and decide if more intervention and communication is required.

Mr Montgomery says unlike contract tracing applications that are based upon the Singapore Government’s app called Trace Together, Prox is completely anonymous. Though it may serve well as complimentary tool in the coronavirus fight.

"Each Prox installed device has a ‘Prox Scout’ feature. It’s like a neural network that helps people plan their movements based on the real-time experience of other Prox users. For instance, before visiting your supermarket, you can check Prox Scout to determine how busy (high risk) it might be and decide if you want to shop another time. Ultimately this can help retailers as well to flatten their demand curve over the day.

"Tragically, this pandemic is spreading faster in some countries than existing elimination measures can contain it, and until a vaccine is available, it is up to us to take responsibility for protecting ourselves and our communities. Many agree that facilitating an effective groundswell solution using a mobile app could substantially reduce the spread of Covid-19 and future viral flare-ups and save lives. Therefore, the more devices running an app like Prox, the more effective it will be at helping to reduce viral spread," he said.

Importantly, the Prox app is developed strictly in compliance with New Zealand’s and Australia’s privacy and data security laws. The majority of data collected by Prox is stored anonymously on the user’s phone; this ensures you have full control and ownership of your data.

"We developed Prox because we care deeply about people and their welfare. Using our deep skillset across sensors, signal processing, software and cloud apps, we’ve intermeshed a lot of advanced tech to develop and release Prox at breakneck speed. We aim to get Prox out internationally as fast as possible. Many lives could be counting on it," said Mr Montgomery.

Prox version 1 is now available free on both Android and Apple stores in Australia and New Zealand. A Maori version will soon follow as well as an enterprise version that will allow organisations to internally monitor their peoples' isolation performance. Prox presents no health information, services, advice or statistics about the Covid-19 pandemic.

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