How TSTT responded to Covid-19

How TSTT responded to Covid-19

How TSTT responded to Covid-19

Above: TSTT CEO Dr Ronald Walcott answers questions during his presentation.

BitDepth#1248 for April 29, 2020

“I said to one of my teams, we should not let this opportunity go to waste,” said TSTT’s CEO, Dr Ronald Walcott.

“We have to go forward. I don’t see any other conversation making sense.”

Walcott was speaking at an online presentation on Tuesday. The weekly presentations are hosted by CANTO weekly. Tuesdays topic was “The CEO’s perspective on Covid-19.”

But Walcott isn’t just a business manager, he represents the state’s stake in local telecommunications in what has become a competitive market of three players. The other two, Digicel and Flow/Liberty are branches of international companies.

In the face of stiff commercial competition, TSTT has recast itself as the provider with a compassionate understanding of the TT character and needs.

That shows up in the company’s language too, as Walcott spoke of adjustments to its “dunning” or disconnection policy, something that Walcott noted, “our CFO is always unhappy about.”

The company has put aside a budget of between $20-$25 million for customer support initiatives to play its part in helping the nation to manage its challenges during isolation and economic recovery.

The company has, through its network of fibre connections, its old copper network, a mobile 4G LTE network and a fixed wireless (WTTX) network recently upgraded to 5G, managed to cover 95 per cent of the country.

One of the questions the company is now asking internally is, according to Walcott, “If we were to supply TT with 100 per cent broadband, what would happen?”

Bridging that gap is, the TSTT CEO explained, a challenge of physical infrastructure, but it’s one that needs to be met if the country is ever to cross the last major digital divide imposed by geography.

To create a universal network, the company would, Walcott said, “have to work with the regulator on the edge of the network, which has financial constraints.”

Where the coverage network tends to become spotty in Trinidad and Tobago is in sparsely populated areas of the country with widely scattered customers.

But it is these customers who most need to be connected to the wider Internet and to have their capacities lubricated by a technological advantage.

Bridging that gap is, the TSTT CEO explained, a challenge of physical infrastructure, but it’s one that needs to be met if the country is ever to cross the last major digital divide imposed by geography.

What these weeks of isolation have given TSTT is a window into what a more fully digital Trinidad and Tobago might look like.

The company is seeing new patterns emerging in its customer base across the range of connection services it offers.

Peaks that would normally happen during business hours are now shifting to homes in the afternoon.

Instant messaging and other communication apps have increased by multipliers of between 2X and 5X.

Teens have begun using more SMS text messaging, a service that was previously in decline.

Voice traffic remains flat, as more users make use of voice apps.

Walcott reported a 40 per cent drop in data traffic on mobile devices and a significant increase in use of its new WTTX fixed wireless 5G service, which has surged to deliver two million gigabytes of data per week.

With an increase in interactive use of the Internet, there has also been a significant growth in upload traffic.

The company used the 30MHZ spectrum temporarily allocated by TATT for its WTTX network, increasing deployment to 304 of 308 sites. The company is considering the possibility of deploying broadband to former copper connected customers who are only using voice calls on the service.

The 10 MHZ spectrum allotment has been used to improve speeds on its 4G LTE mobile broadband service in a demand swath ranging in an arc from Siparia and La Brea up to the East-West Corridor and curving through Sangre Grande to Manzanilla.

The company’s caching service, which holds frequently used data on local servers jumped from 20 to 45GB, driven by a surge in the use of search engines and viewing of YouTube videos. And possibly Tik Tok, which surged 43 per cent in popularity within a week of the lockdown.

“We have had to dimension the network differently,” he said.

“You have to look at the network from the user all the way back to the Internet backbone.”

CANTO’s branding for its Covid-19 response

In-house adjustments

TSTT established an in-house Covid-19 taskforce and included the union in its creation of new policies, including work-from-home guidelines, inclusive of policies for staff using their own devices, cybersecurity reviews and new rules of engagement for installation and repair crews.

By the second week of isolation, TSTT has successfully transitioned 82 per cent of its staff to working from home.

That internal transition experience may provide the company with another asset emerging from the Covid-19 lockdown, a playbook to inform companies too small to have significant IT support on how to make work-from-home more of a norm and less of an enforced lifestyle.

“Business leaders are seeing that it can work,” Walcott said.

“How can we accelerate digital transformation,” he has asked his teams, hoping to make this a leveraging point for diversification fuelled by technology.

“There isn’t a better opportunity to do this.”

Covid-19 and 5G

Having spent significant sums to claim first mover rights on the title 5G provider for its fixed wireless access service, it wasn’t surprising to hear the note of exasperation in his description of the spurious link between 5G deployment and the rise of Covid-19 as, “misinformation.”

“I had to author a position paper for the Government and the board,” Walcott said with a frisson of annoyance, noting that TATT, the local regulator had published a notice debunking the claims.

“We operate within all the required regulations.”

Found facts

TSTT’s monitoring of mobile broadband use notes that the top five apps or websites used by mobile users are, respectively, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Netflix and Tik Tok. The next three are xvideos.com, YouTube Go and xnxx.com.

App allows GPs and paramedics to screen COVID-19 patients – Med-Tech Innovation

A healthtech platform is reducing pressure on hospital services by enabling GPs and paramedics to screen COVID-19 patients in collaboration with specialists via an app.

Cinapsis – a digital triage platform founded by NHS surgeon Owain Rhys Hughes – allows patients to be assessed by specialists as part of their GP appointment or 999 call response, enabling clinicians to pool their expertise and work together to support patients remotely.

The platform connects primary care clinicians such as GPs and community lead nurses with consultants from the local NHS Trust who can provide advice about a patient’s management in real time, including using images. This enables assessments to be made in situ, reducing unnecessary person-to-person contacts and patient trips to hospital. 

Founder and CEO of Cinapsis, Dr Owain Hughes, said: “At this critical time, Cinapsis is making it easier for GPs and emergency healthcare workers to quickly identify the best course of action for any patient exhibiting symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, whether that’s sending them to hospital or ensuring that they receive the care they need within their community. Local specialists can respond to questions from their colleagues in seconds and ensure decisions are made quickly, seamlessly and in the patient’s best interests.”

With health professionals keen to stress that anyone with health worries should still seek help, the app means patients can continue to access consultant advice as part of their GP appointment.

In Gloucestershire Cinapsis is being used across the One Gloucestershire Integrated Care System (ICS) which includes Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group and all of its 73 GP practices.

Around 32% of patients with suspected COVID-19 whose GPs or paramedics were able to offer alternatives to hospital care were instead managed at home, relieving pressure on the NHS at this critical time.

Dr Malcolm Gerald, lead GP on the Cinapsis project in Gloucestershire, said: “Not only are we helping to reassure and better manage our patients by giving them the benefit of specialist advice, we are also reducing demand on busy hospitals by making properly informed decisions. Our data shows that following discussion with a specialist around a third of COVID-19 patients whose referring clinician had significant concerns about them did not need to be admitted to hospital. This has reduced unnecessary patient, family and staff exposure to the virus, whilst keeping important bed space free for those most in need.” 

Cinapsis is a smart referral system which uses a mobile or desktop app to put primary care clinicians in direct contact with the right specialist via their mobile phone or a landline. It can also allow messages, images and video to be used – and all in a data-secure environment.

The referrer can make a single call, receive the best available advice, forward summary documents to the specialist and arrange transport if needed. Specialists can manage their rotas with ease, respond to calls quickly from wherever they are and then forward relevant information to the receiving department, sharing work across their team and prioritising cases. 

All advice is recorded and an electronic letter summarising the consultation is sent to the patient’s GP practice. 

covid-19: MCIIE develops low-cost UVGI system to fight coronavirus - Latest News

covid-19: MCIIE develops low-cost UVGI system to fight coronavirus – Latest News

The Malviya Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (MCIIE) at the IIT-BHU has developed an ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) system, which has been installed at the Covid-19 lab of the BHU Hospital for sanitisation.

Prof P.K. Mishra, project coordinator, said, “Realising the urgent need to develop low-cost, multi-purpose instruments for effective sanitisation amid the coronavirus pandemic, the MCIIE came up with this ready-to-use UVC-based product. The centre has developed a wide range of UVC systems and our advanced systems assure elimination of biological contaminants, like viruses, bacteria, spores and allergens, by effectively treating moving air with UVC radiation.”

As per the latest research, UVC light-based sterilizer can kill a range of micro-organisms, like viruses (including SARS syndrome, coronavirus and Nipah virus) and bacteria in a short time.

The system has a series of UV lamps (depending upon size of place of installation), each having 22 watts capacity.

According to Mishra, any virus can be deactivated up to 99 per cent by the UVGI dose of 2,400 microwatt sec/cm square. This system can produce UVGI dose of more than 2,400 microwatt sec/cm square to ensure complete inactivation of coronavirus.

It also works on auto timer and its visual red/green indicator ensures safety of the user against the UV dose.

The system can be used in hospitals, operation theatres, ICUs and IVF labs, microbiological labs, special wards, dental facilities, laboratories, pharmaceutical units and patient care wards.

Bad and going viral: UK charity highlights COVID-19 misinformation - Latest News

Bad and going viral: UK charity highlights COVID-19 misinformation – Latest News

Internet and media companies should do more to tackle the spread of misinformation in Britain, independent fact-checking charity Full Fact said in a report on Thursday highlighting falsehoods that have spread during the coronavirus outbreak this year.

The novel coronavirus has opened up a new front in the battle against misinformation, with false claims and conspiracy theories possibly having a negative effect on public health.

“Bad information ruins lives. We’ve seen first hand how it can dissuade people from engaging in democracy, and risk their finances, health or personal safety. The outbreak of the new coronavirus has brought this into starker focus in recent months,” Chief Executive Will Moy said.

“Here in the UK, we have seen misinformation take hold in the form of fake cures, spurious claims, conspiracy theories and financial scams.”

Full Fact reiterated a call for reforms to election laws to help safeguard future votes, and has highlighted misleading campaign tactics in last December’s general election.

But the emphasis of its work has quickly shifted to health as COVID-19 has spread throughout the world.

Full Fact said that falsehoods concerning the risks of vaccines and a conspiracy theory linking coronavirus to 5G telecom networks were two common types of misinformation.

Earlier this month, Britain said a conspiracy theory that links 5G masts to the spread of the coronavirus was dangerous fake news and completely false after masts in several parts of the country were torched.

Full Fact added that an online form it had launched to let users send in their questions about the COVID-19 epidemic had seen more than 2,000 responses in just over three weeks.

Tech firms have acted to curb misinformation related to the virus. Earlier in April, Facebook-owned WhatsApp tightened message-forwarding limits in a bid to limit messages touting bogus medical advice.

In a new annual report, Full Fact said that internet companies should implement transparency principles to detail how much content on their platforms are flagged as false or misleading, and what measures are taken against such posts.

Full Fact last year joined Facebook‘s Third Party Fact Checking programme, which provides a queue of flagged posts that have been identified as possibly false for the charity to review, possibly resulting in misleading posts being “downranked” in the the social media site’s algorithm.

The charity said Facebook’s fact-checking programme was “not perfect, but it is an important step in the process” and encouraged other sites to set up similar processes.

Self-driving vehicles get in on the delivery scene amid COVID-19 - Latest News

Self-driving vehicles get in on the delivery scene amid COVID-19 – Latest News

Self-driving cars, trucks, sidewalk robots and shuttles are rolling out of the labs and parking garages and onto American streets to help deliver groceries, meals, and medical supplies.

Although self-driving car companies have paused on-road testing in the U.S., as it is not considered an essential business, pivoting to deliveries allows them back on the road to gather more data.

Since mid-April, the cars of General Motors Co’s self-driving unit Cruise have flashed a “SF COVID-19 Response” sign on their windshields as they deliver food from SF-Marin Food Bank and SF New Deal to seniors in need. Each car has two safety drivers; one wears a mask and gloves to drop bags off at the door.

“We’re not making a fundamental pivot away from ride-sharing,” said Rob Grant, vice president of government affairs at Cruise. “What I do see is this pandemic really showing where self-driving vehicles can be of use in the future. That includes in contactless delivery like we’re doing here.”

Toyota-backed Pony.ai said its cars are back on the street in California after a pause. Now they are delivering groceries in Irvine from local e-commerce platform Yamibuy and work with the City of Fremont to deliver meals to a local emergency shelter program.

Meanwhile, in early April Softbank-backed Nuro became the second company in California to receive a permit to operate a driverless vehicle on public roads. Co-founder Dave Ferguson said Nuro was putting its latest R2 vehicles to work delivering medical supplies to a temporary COVID-19 hospital in Sacramento and a temporary medical facility in San Mateo County.

None of the those three companies are making any money from their deliveries, but are gaining experience and data on delivery operations, several operators said.

Beep, an autonomous shuttle service provider, said in early April that it was partnering with the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and shuttle maker Navya to transport COVID-19 tests at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

Self-driving truck company TuSimple, in which United Parcel Service Inc has invested, has kept its 40 autonomous trucks on the road for paying customers, but is offering a free service for food banks in Texas and Arizona, according to its chief product officer, Chuck Price.

And on Wednesday, Russian tech giant Yandex, which has a self-driving car team, said the pandemic helped speed up the signing of its first commercial contract with the city of Skolkovo, a tech hub, to help deliver mail and small packages using its sidewalk robot, Yandex.Rover.