Companies know everything and nothing at the same time
Almost everyone has travelled, searched online, or spoken about what they want and then seen relevant content the next time they use their phone. While it may seem like those companies know personal details about you, the data used to achieve personalised content is almost without exception anonymised and encrypted. Businesses get to know consumer trends and push offers to customers for whom those ads are relevant. The retailer gains more business and the consumer benefits by seeing offers and products that are relevant.
So, what does behavioural intelligence have to do with COVID-19?
That encrypted anonymised behavioural data can show trends regarding where people are moving if they are in crowded areas, and how close they are to others. Those abilities, besides being great for connecting businesses to their customers, happen to be crucial to shifting from reactive lockdowns to proactive policymaking and business decisions that aid in breaking the chain of infection. The current system simply tracks based on positive tests, but by the time individuals are tested and the result marked they have already infected others who often don’t know they’re infected and the COVID-19 continues to spread until another lockdown.
Breaking the chain of infection
24-48 hours. That’s all the time there is to recognise a transmission trend and break it up before it turns into a localised pandemic. With real-time macro-level trends based on factors such as transmission and contact, policymakers can deploy resources in a targeted manner so they aren’t overstretched and have the maximum impact. A few positive cases in one area are linked to movements throughout the day, or particular events and selective lockdown, or tighter distancing measures can be put in place exactly where they are needed before it’s too late. Effective tactics can even be deployed based on the behavioural data alone since specific behavioural factors are strongly correlated to positive cases.
Testing tardiness makes us play COVID-19 catchup
Even the fastest test in most cases is not quick enough to take a proactive policy. Traditional testing methods take days and are very expensive and alternatives such as the new, affordable 15-minute antigen tests don’t solve the problem. The new tests have far less sensitivity, rendering them unable to detect a positive until it’s too late to take pre-emptive measures. Here too, behavioural intelligence comes to the rescue.
With an understanding of how social someone has been, where they have travelled, how much distance they’ve kept etc. a risk factor can be assigned. The ability to accurately identify high and low-risk individuals getting tested enables labs to group low-risk individuals together to conduct sample pooling. That tactic, which recently gained emergency approval from the FDA, allows large pools of tests that are low risk to be tested all at once without the need to “open up” the pool unless a positive is found. ViruScore, the solution my company developed was able to achieve 98% accuracy (i.e. no positive found amongst 98% of tests pooled) speeding up traditional testing by six times.
It’s the economy, stupid
That phrase, coined by legendary political strategist James Carville sought to highlight the central importance of the economy in the election that catapulted Bill Clinton into office. Never has that phrase been more relevant than now, as people’s livelihoods and businesses’ survival depend on a policy that balances safeguarding lives and safeguarding livelihoods. Businesses, however, are not completely defenceless. Behavioural intelligence, aside from allowing them to connect to customers, offers a clear indicator of when foot traffic will come back to a neighbourhood and how risky that foot traffic is. Those two elements are essential when it comes to determining when and how to reopen to maximise benefit and avoid greater losses.
This pandemic has brought devastation to be sure, but even amidst the greatest challenges, there are methods to mitigate disaster, cultivate hope, and plot a better way forward. Transcending the traditional confines of medicine and medtech to find solutions such as those driven by behavioural intelligence is one of those methods. Now, it’s up to us to implement these digital solutions to make an immediate impact and keep them ready for the future.