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An Ebola outbreak in West Africa in March 2014 rapidly grew into the deadliest incidence of the virus since its discovery in 1976. Within months, more than 25,000 documented cases of Ebola plagued Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. At least 10,000 died.
Containing the spread of the deadly disease in West Africa presented a challenge, to say the least. Imagine an aid worker in a HAZMAT suit, whose mission is to identify Ebola in a swarm of villagers while scrawling down information with a pencil and paper. It’s a very common scenario in countries that lack the technology to track, transmit, and share health data on infected versus vaccinated patients.
“To even begin thinking about solving a problem like Ebola contact and vaccine tracing,” explains Adam Weiner, principal and biometrics and forensic engineering capability lead, “we needed to bring our experts in biometric recognition, cloud data storage, custom devices, and predictive analytics together.” Looking at it from all these angles, Booz Allen envisioned a portable, practical device that could capture and store health data in the field—something users could operate even while draped in a HAZMAT suit.
Our employees are passionate problem-solvers, and they took facial recognition software and integrated it into an existing handheld forensic tool used by law enforcement and the military. INTREPID, as we call the new creation, allows aid workers to accurately identify locals from a distance. All you have to do is hover near someone’s face with the device, follow on-screen cues, and click when ready. After the front-end face-imaging software collects a number of facial measurements, the device compares that data against the INTREPID cloud: a virtual database of previously tagged individuals. INTREPID also allows a user to catalog new, untagged individuals—and confirm known identities—on the spot.
“Imagine an aid worker in a HAZMAT suit, whose mission is to identify Ebola in a swarm of villagers while scrawling down information with a pencil and paper. It’s a very common scenario in countries that lack the technology to track, transmit, and share health data on infected versus vaccinated patients.”
Recognizing and confirming the identities of people in the hot zone is just half of the problem; the ability to track them, monitor their sentiments, and predict the next flare-up of the epidemic is another. But we’re working on that, too.
Epidemico, a health analytics subsidiary Booz Allen acquired in 2015, has a product that provides real-time analysis and insights into population health. The company’s MedWatcher scrapes news feeds and administers a data processing algorithm to tag, filter, analyze, and visualize any health or threat alert, including those in traditional and social media, anywhere on the globe. The data is aggregated, analyzed, and then visualized on maps to project where an outbreak may move. That means we not only know who’s sick, but who’s most likely to get sick, based on data.
With a device in place for aid workers to capture biometric information and a cloud environment built to syndicate their data, we integrated MedWatcher’s data visualization and analytics technology to meet the needs of aid organizations. Our INTREPID package—the augmented hardware device modified with facial recognition, the INTREPID cloud environment, and the data visualization and analytics—is a solution for Ebola contact and vaccine tracing, and beyond.