Thursday, June 12, 2008

QR Codes for Health Information Exchange

Yesterday night's skype meeting with Gordon Gow brought forth the idea of using QR codes to code and decode health information in relation to the next research in many aspects, a research him and I plan to start shortly; i.e. the RTBP. Refer to his blog for a note on QR Codes and application for mobile phones for emergency managers - Barcodes meet cellphones: intriguing possibilities.

The Real-Time Biosurveillance Program (RTBP) is a research that envisions pilot testing mobile phones for collecting health-related information and applying AutonLab's suite of statistical data mining algorithms for fetching anomalies in the health datasets. The Healthcare-Workers will be provided with mobile phones and a Java application, a rendition of openROSA suit of applications. Indian Institute of Technology - Madras will be developing the mobile applications.

The health information will be mostly patient counts with similar symptoms. We discussed the possibility of using QR codes during transport and storage of information:

1) the Healthcare-Worker recorded data on the mobile handhelds can be encoded as a QR Code prior to transmitting the information to central repository (database). Since the QR Codes use the Reed-Solomon error correction method the misinterpretation of health information during transport and storage is further reduced

2) Given, that a QR codes are already encoded in binary form, the possibility of increasing the speed of the statistical data mining algorithms are worth testing

3) encoding communicable diseases and other known diseases with symptoms in QR Code form printed as hard copy for Healthcare Workers to use for entering information by simply scanning the QR code with the mobile phone camera instead of typing the lengthy string with the possibility of misspelling

4) In the event the Java application residing on the handheld fails the Healthcare Workers can use the hard copy QR code version to scan predefined health information strings to record the information on the handheld, then use Email, MMS or SMS to transit the information over any technology that allows the standard Email, SMS, MMS applications, making it easier for the database to also decipher and parse the information before storing in the relevant attributes (fields)

5) The Healthcare Workers can store the patient information in QR Code form as a hardcopy as a backup. Since it is in a human unreadable form the possibility of an unauthorized random individual reading the confidential patient information is null

These are thoughts that came up during our discussion and look forward to testing the concepts with the RTBP.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Attempt to Classify Early Warning Systems

Over the past 2 months, since my work completed as the researcher/project manager evaluating a last-mile hazard information dissemination research, a contract received through LIRNEasia, I've been taking a stab at classifying early warning systems (EWS). The research so far does not reveal a concrete abstraction for this classification effort. Most of the work done are domain specific, thus financial specialist trying to classify financial EWS, engineers trying to classify engineering EWS, so on and so forth.

The question that pops in my mind is "how does one distinguish between two similar EWS designs for the same purpose; i.e. pick the best?" or "how does one enumerate the capability and capacity of a given EWS?" or "how does one decompose an existing design to depict the possibility of adding on to extend the value to service other risks?" Current thinking is to design systems to the decision makers liking. Also there is no regard for including response systems in the design. As I see a EWS designed without taking the "customer attribute"; i.e. the response system in to consideration, is like throwing darts in to an empty space; i.e. no target.

The works so far leads me to believe that three main parameters that can classify any EWS, whether it be natural (as in the animal kingdom), engineered, social, or economic, are by understanding them through observer-controller (predictor corrector) systems, complexity theory, and Markov processes. These three primary fields give us the tools to define the operational orientations, capabilities of the design, and the expected capacity in real conditions.

I am testing the above mentioned framework on four examples: community-based last-mile hazard warning system (I was personally involved in), debt crisis financial EWS, Dam failure (safety) EWS, and a EWS based on the Traceability of Agriculture markets. The classification scheme inclusive of the enumeration theories are working in my favor. Although the exact simulated values for the system design capabilities and expect capacity are yet to be determined.

I would greatly appreciate anyone working in the same arena or has any interest in discussing the aspects of solving this classification problem to share their opinions with me through dialog.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hunting for 1 of the 208 Olympic Torches in Kunming

Monday morning I was extremely excited to see the 2008 Olympic torch come through Kunming. This would be a one time offering of the Olympic torch to come through the city I currently live in, and the probabilistically, them same happening in my life time would be near zero. The previous night my nephew got details of the official route off the web. It was to start from the famous Stone Forest (World Heritage site) at 8:30am and make its way in to the city. We decided to catch a glimpse of it at Green Lake Park. Once we got there we found out that the route had been changed and was not going the long distance as planned. I suppose the organizers fear the Dalai Clan would cause problems, Yunnan being the closest province and the beginning of the to Tibetan plateau. My wife got tired of trekking around the city hunting for the torch and decided to spend her time shopping; while my nephew and I decided to continue the hunt. It was 11am and we thought we could catch the afternoon session near the Expo Village at 1:00pm. Riding the bus along Beijing Lu (road) we saw hordes of fans gathered at Dong Feng Square. We were convinced, with the amount of people gathered as well as the police presence, the torch was bound to come through the square; hopped off the bus. Then to our disappointment we learned that of the 208 torch exchanges that were to happen in Kunming, already 200 had been completed. The event that was to last the entire day ended in the morning. The city had issued special invitations to big shots and there henchmen to attend, leaving the general public out. I guess the Olympics are not for the ordinary but for the class that the ordinary don't belong!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

P2P CAP Broker for Communicating Cyclones/Hurricanes

A proposal was submitted for an NSF grant on Communicating Hurricane Warnings. This a two country research collaboration between the iSchool @ UMD and LSF @ UCSC. I will work with LSF as a Principle Investigator in the capacity of an OR Analyst/Project Manager in managing and conducting the Sri Lankan research component. Dave Yates from the iSchool will conduct the parallel research in USA.

The research will develop a Peer-to-Peer Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) Broker for exchanging hurricane/cyclone information with stakeholders such as the Met dept, Broadcasters, First-Responders, Citizens, and other associates. The P2P CAP Broker will be a FOSS application amalgamated in to the Sahana suite of Disaster Management software modules. The intent of the P2P CAP Broker is to provide a plat form for stakeholders to network in the same way as a "social network" to exchange cyclone/hurricane information before, during, and after an incident.

A major component will be testing the CAP interoperability structure for communicating information in multiple languages; Sinhala/Tamil in Sri Lanka and English/Spanish in USA. The software will be accessible via mobile handhelds and laptop/desktop computers via the internet. The alerting component will work on SMS too. The National Weather Bureau (Met dept) could issue alerts to first-responders downstream and receive acknowledgments from alert recipients up stream. Users who are part of the network could also send situational reports upstream to the central authorities. The figure above shows the schematics of the proposed system.

The P2P CAP Broker was a recommendation made in the HazInfo research technical report. As we had encountered in the real life experiences as well as in the HazInfo research, it is usually the people and protocols that fail and not the technologies. Therefore, the proposed research of evaluating the P2P exchange of cyclone/hurricane information intends to measure the uncertainties caused due to technological and organizational complexities of this system through evidential analysis.

If the grant is approved work should begin in January 2009 and end in 2011. The first year will be dedicated to research and development of the ICT system and the second year for evaluation through mock-drills and the use during the cyclone/hurricane seasons in Sri Lanka and USA.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Food Crisis in Sri Lanka and the World

"Global Food Crisis and the local Rice Prices"

This newspaper article was written by my father Dr. Parakrama Waidyanatha and was published in the Sunday Observer - .... worth a read.

Especially quotes such as (extracted directly from article) --
:: Over a 100 million poor who spend 50 - 70% of their earnings on food
:: Food prices have risen by 83% globally over the last three years
:: U.S is diverting an amount equivalent to its entire export volume of corn for biofuel
:: farmgate price of paddy is an all time high, but the cost of production is relatively low
:: the heavy fertilizer subsidy of about 400% of the actual cost