Rarely, if ever, has the entire world been united in a fight against the same enemy the way it has over recent months courtesy of the Covid-19 pandemic. Coronavirus has already resulted in over one million confirmed deaths worldwide and is showing no signs of subsiding any time soon. The race for a vaccine is in high gear, but even once an effective one is found its implementation at a global scale could take years. Any way you look at it, coronavirus isn't going away soon, leaving humanity in a battle to contain its damaging effects for as long and as much as possible.
One company keen on making its mark in this marathon is Israeli startup Neura, which has developed an innovative approach for countries to tackle Covid-19 and reopen the economy. Back in March, Neura’s team realized that human behavior is the key to understanding the spread of Covid-19 around the world and that encouraging a change in human behavior is needed to cope with the pandemic, flatten the curve, and eventually drive a solution that will allow countries to keep their economies running and live safely while the virus is still among us.
Based on the IP Neura developed in behavioral intelligence, the company built a new set of signals to monitor and analyze the spread of coronavirus. Signals include encounter rates, behavioral super-spreaders, social distancing adherence, and population density, among others, used to specifically understand, and monitor the spread of the virus. The uniqueness of Neura’s IP is in fusing epidemiological and behavioral signals and applying an advanced algorithm to predict the pandemic’s spread.
Covid-19 provided plenty of opportunities for Neura, with the company also developing several products in response, including the ViruScore, a Covid-19 predictive pool testing solution enabling a 6X increase in testing capacity, and ViruSafe, a tool that indicates the level of safety on a building level, for retail establishments to provide consumer confidence.
"The pandemic has changed the immediate focus, but not the core technology and strategic focus of the company," Neura CEO Amit Hammer told CTech. "The Covid-19 insights are all built off Neura’s pre-existing IP of behavior intelligence, we were quick to adapt and enhance the algorithm to incorporate epidemiological data to be able to contribute to a global solution to the pandemic."
Governments are currently struggling as they are looking at the pandemic spread from the patients' point in time of a positive test, which comes after approximately a 10-day seeding and spreading lag. Neura says its behavioral intelligence platform can accurately predict future hotspots, a significant tool in the race to cut the chain of infection and get ahead of the pandemic’s spread. Neura uses machine learning algorithms to generate a model that correlates its signals with hotspots, outbreaks, and location, detecting first, and second waves around the world and generating a model and a set of leading indicators.
The company has made these indicators available for decision-makers, local governments and health organizations, and according to Hammer, they have responded very positively.
"The reaction by health professionals, business leaders, and government officials has been overwhelmingly positive. Policymakers embrace a solution that enables them to make data-driven decisions, based on anonymized and aggregated data, and maintaining the absolute privacy of their citizens," Hammer explained. "Neura was also chosen from over 500 companies around the globe to enable the restarting of the economy after presenting their solutions to a board of innovation experts from 14 international corporations."
Away from Covid-19, Neura focuses on providing actionable insights for decision-makers in the areas of mobility, government, retail, and marketing. The company provides strategic decisions based on travel patterns, identifying heavily trafficked areas, ridesharing habits, and other transportation needs. Neura's platform can give governments insights into population movement and real-life behavior for city planning, traffic control, and commercial interests, while bringing to the retail sector the ability to identify consumer habits, and attributes that indicate relevant audiences for user acquisition and better engagement. In marketing, Neura aims to enable global brands to know their consumers in the real world to address their preferences and needs.
"Back in 2012 Ori Shaashua (CPO) and Triinu Magi (CTO) had the realization that massive amounts of data being made publicly available had unleashed potential in transforming the decision-making process for multiple industries," explained Hammer. "Neura was born out of the understanding that by leveraging this behavioral data to provide actionable insights to municipalities, health organizations, businesses, and the likes, they could help us live our lives with less effort and more efficiently.
"They set out to build an algorithm to transform large-scale behavioral data into actionable insights, discovering the vast potential in large scale human behavior data and its ability to impact many types of businesses and organizations," Hammer added. "Joining forces with Gil Mahler (VP R&D) to turn this into a platform driven by an engine that supports consumer experiences in smart cities, mobility, health, and marketing."
Hammer believes that the applications Neura created to fight Covid-19 will continue to be relevant during and after the pandemic. "Neura has already created three products that are built off the technology. ViruScore, ViruSafe, and the Behavioral Insights platform that provides all data and actionable dashboards for tackling the coronavirus spread," he noted. "Industry use following the rise of the pandemic include - insurance companies, HMOs, and health organizations - who would want to anticipate and factor in the impact of a pandemic on their business. Local governments will be much more aware of the impact of a pandemic on their residents, even those responsible for mitigating the seasonal flu will take actions to limit its effect on their economies. Businesses are eager to be able to identify safe environments to ensure that their employees and consumers are protected and safeguard business continuity.
"In addition to monitoring and controlling the spread of the pandemic, Neura’s team sees that behavioral intelligence is becoming more and more relevant to many areas of our life, and understanding human behavior, as well as influencing human behavior, will become increasingly important in the future," Hammer concluded.