Using EMDYN Platform to prepare and respond to pandemics

The impact of decision-making has scarcely been seen in sharper focus than when governments and public health bodies sought to manage the Covid-19 pandemic as it took hold globally in 2020. The timing of decisions to contain the spread of virus through closing borders, imposing lockdowns or local restrictions became crucial. In many countries, delays in introducing such measures affected infection rates and, sadly, mortalities while those who acted faster had measurably better outcomes. The key to planning for and responding to any future pandemics is surely to gain a faster, more efficient handle on data on human mobility which is central to modelling the spread of a virus.


Writen by

Sim Tack

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The Information Gap Working with limited information for much of the time constrained the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether the basic virology, uncertainty about how fast it spreads, exactly how it affects those infected or how human mobility cultivates it, this information gap impacted on government responses to the virus and remains a risk in a future pandemic. Together with physical measures such as developing and delivering vaccines or stockpiling medical and PPE, authorities will need faster access to key data insights at the earliest stages of a potential pandemic.

Unlocking intelligence-led information to help guide preventative measures will be key. EMDYN has built a capability to support such responses throughout a future pandemic. With access to a global dataset of geolocated device data, EMDYN can provide accurate insights into human mobility across the world, from a tactical inner-city scale to strategic global connectedness modelling. With the analysis derived from this data, authorities can efficiently allocate resources, establish monitoring procedures and assess the effectiveness of containment efforts. This information is invaluable in defining policy at a time of crisis, when the margin for error is least. Its role at each stage is summarised here.

Staying ahead of the curve Looking back to December 2019, we can show how EMDYN location intelligence might have been used to inform decision making. Covid-19 virology was then scarcely known, yet, using location intelligence, its potential for transmission based on lifestyles in affected areas and connectedness with other parts of the world, would have indicated a significant risk of global spread. As understanding of the virus improved and cases began to be identified in other countries, the data could have assisted containment efforts and epidemiological modelling. Accurate information on human mobility is vital to complete the intelligence picture of pandemic risk, while monitoring helps manage continued risk going forward. Initial Risk Assessment: Mobility within and from Wuhan

EMDYN Geospatial Intelligence software forms an integral part of EMDYN Platform which connects to a massive bank of location data and latest satellite imagery to provide unparalleled insights into situations, events or patterns of movement. Early on, when a potential epidemic or pandemic is identified but not yet necessarily well understood, EMDYN Platform can provide rapid insights to guide initial risk assessments. By studying mobility patterns around a particular area of disease outbreak, the potential scale of transmission or geographic vulnerabilities can be quickly mapped. Here the data shows the movement across Wuhan, China of people located near the Huanan Seafood Market between 16 December 2019 and 15 January 2020. In the case of the Covid-19 outbreak, this location mapping could have quickly shown the potential for local transmission and identified close connectedness to Western European and North American population centres. At the early stage of a disease outbreak, this intelligence can guide decisions to impose travel restrictions to and from high-risk areas, to allocate testing and assist in contact tracing. Below, location data shows the largest clusters of foreign travel destinations ex-Wuhan Tianhe International Airport between 1 to 10 January 2020.

As more information emerges, EMDYN Platform data can also act as a significant force multiplier to accurate predictive modelling of virus transmission and global spread whereas decisions are always likely to be behind the curve if simply following incidence of the virus. EMDYN provides both the data and the analysis to galvanise the full potential of health infrastructure facing a pandemic.

Staying Ahead of Transmission: Mobility within Europe

As a pandemic accelerates with multiple hotspots of disease transmission confirmed, EMDYN location intelligence can play a key role in helping to contain the spread. Once Covid-19 reached Europe and started to spread significantly, policy makers found themselves chasing behind mobility patterns, closing certain avenues of travel only after transmission through them had been confirmed. Analysing these mobility patterns in advance and during the spread allows far greater situational awareness to aid containment. Where suppression is not feasible, ongoing guidance for allocation of testing and medical resources is available. To demonstrate this, EMDYN analysts conducted data-driven research into the movement of individuals from and between Covid-19 hotspots in Europe. The chart shows concentrations of mobility from Northern Italy to the Netherlands during 15 January to 14 March 2020, aligning with outbreaks in South-eastern France, Southern Germany, Hamburg and Southern Netherlands. This analysis helps the correlation between patterns of mobility and spread of the disease to be better understood. Detailed paths of movement are revealed along highways and into cities, identifying stops along the way or follow-on travel that occurred. Powerful EMDYN Platform data can be used in multiple ways, from a broad strategic level to study movement patterns to tactical levels at which individual risk contacts are identified. Here we highlight places where travellers from Covid-19 affected areas in Italy between 15 January to 14 March 2020 have converged or spent extended time. Identifying hotspots and comparing them to current information about the regional virus spread, showed a very strong correlation between these mobility patterns and the intensity of outbreaks. Eastern areas of France, South-western Germany, city of Hamburg and Southern Netherlands stand out as destinations or midway stops in the movement patterns. All lie within affected countries where Covid-19 had initially expanded into larger sections of local populations in comparison to elsewhere in these countries. While this subset of individuals travelling from northern Italy to the Netherlands gives just a partial view of the total mobility within outbreak hotspots in Europe, it provides significant insights into confirmed risk areas and transmission direction. EMDYN Platform data and methodology offers real potential to understand and predict the spread of future pandemics in a closely interwoven environment.

Assessment and Enforcement of Response Measures

EMDYN Platform data is also highly relevant to the evaluation and enforcement of containment efforts. Limiting mobility and gatherings are key components of pandemic response, but enforcement requires significant resources. Monitoring current mobility and proximity of devices, compared to established patterns of activity in a non-pandemic situation, is a rapid and reliable way to minimise risk. Tactical application of the data can even be used to identify clusters of contacts within broader patterns of movement so that specific events or encounters can be pinpointed, allowing proactive screening for potential infections. Irregular movements or group events could also easily be identified from this data uncovering potential transmission despite public health efforts and even facilitating intervention by law enforcement. Such information allows policy makers and responders to adjust enforcement measures. When risks do emerge, additional testing and medical resources can be redeployed to help limit further transmissions.

EMDYN Platform in the Wider World

EMDYN Platform is a high performance and extremely flexible technological analytical and investigative framework, facilitating high grade processing on extremely large data sets. Its capabilities ensure better informed decisions can be made using fresh, accurate location data. We have illustrated its potential value in a pandemic context. Beyond this, it has a host of applications in security and intelligence situations and is a genuinely flexible software solution, securely hosted externally or in-house and designed to be easily integrated with clients’ own data. EMDYN Platform is a modern, future-proof solution especially relevant to those working in intelligence, security services and government departments who require the most up to date information to plan current operations and predict future possibilities. In terms of planning to pre-empt the worse effects of a pandemic or managing an outbreak on a similar scale faster and more effectively, utilising EMDYN Platform should bring considerably better outcomes.

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