Coronavirus tracing app graphic

‘Cough-In-A-Box’ smartphone test for Covid-19 undergoing government trials

Image credit: University of Oxford

The UK government is considering the adoption of an AI-based Covid-19 test designed to detect the virus via recordings of a user coughing into their smartphone’s microphone.


A partnership between Fujitsu, Formwize, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Cloudsoft, a Scottish software and service provider, the ‘Cough-In-A-Box’ diagnostic test - based on research released in October 2020 from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - has been shown to correctly identify 98.5 per cent of positive cases, including 100 per cent of asymptomatic cases.

The application uses artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose Covid-19 through audio recordings of a user coughing directly into their smartphone’s microphone. Analysing more than 70,000 recordings submitted by volunteers, which included around 2,500 from people confirmed to have Covid-19, the researchers from MIT were able to train the AI model to correctly identify positive cases.

Since December 2020, a team of Cloudsoft engineers have been working with specialists from Fujitsu, Formwize and the DHSC to convert the application to the cloud. This has allowed the UK government to rapidly scale the application for 40,000 further trials, as well as ensure the app meets the strict demands for data processing and security due to the need of anonymising personal voice data and combining it with participant’s medical history and PCR test data from all four home nations across the UK.

In addition, by utilising a combination of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure cloud platforms, the application benefits from increased resilience and reliability, which are key requirements for the future use of the project as the government expands its ongoing trials.

Ross Gray, CEO, Cloudsoft, said: “This is transformational technology for the greater human good and we’re proud to be at the forefront of technological innovation to contribute to overcoming Covid-19. With so many applications in the real world, this technology could be a game-changer for so many sectors, including travel and hospitality, providing the current trials continue to show the same level of effectiveness as the initial MIT study.”

Aled Sage, vice president of engineering at Cloudsoft, said: “The high-profile nature of the project means that reliability, scalability and security are key requirements, and the cloud has enabled us to realise all of these. It has been a fantastic project to be involved on from a technical perspective and not only demonstrates the power of collaboration between companies, but also the enormous potential of the cloud to power innovations that can make the world a better place and solve global challenges.”

David Cairns, head of innovation at Fujitsu, said: “This is exactly the sort of project that is only possible in the cloud. We relied on Cloudsoft's expertise to co-architect the application to be cloud-native, ensuring that it could meet the demands of scale, reliability and security. This cutting-edge approach to Covid-19 detection has huge potential and is a perfect example of innovating for the human good.”

Following the successful completion of the project by Fujitsu, Formwize and Cloudsoft, the UK Joint Biosecurity Centre is now working with the Alan Turing Institute to assess the wider feasibility of the application, with the initial trial being expanded to include those taking part in the REACT1 Covid-19 prevalence survey.

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