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Coronavirus: NHSX enlists military innovation hub for Covid-19 app project

Organisations will work together to gather and share coronavirus symptom data from third-party tracker apps

The NHS’s digital unit, NHSX, has commissioned a military innovation accelerator hub to work on gathering and sharing Covid-19 symptom data from third-party apps.

Under Project Oasis, an NHSX initiative focused on coordinating data collected by the various third-party apps that have emerged to track the spread of coronavirus, jHub, the innovation hub of the Ministry of Defence and Strategic Command, will provide “assistance, coordination and coherence” of the tracker apps.

NHSX stressed that Project Oasis will adhere to “strict controls” to ensure the data sharing meets data protection legislation. To that end, jHub will also facilitate the secure transfer of relevant symptom and epidemiology data from third-party Covid-19 apps to the health service.

Activities under the partnership will also see jHub receive and review the data, removing any information that may inadvertently identify users, and ensuring that only symptom and demographic data is included.

The data will then be checked by the innovation hub for any security issues, and it will erase any incorrect or duplicate data before sharing it with NHSX and NHS England, which will use the information to get a better understanding of virus spreading patterns.

“Symptom tracking really is a forecasting super power, tightly binding decisions at the highest level to the day-to-day experience of our valuable contributors,” said Andrew Buckley, an innovation scout working at the medical section of jHub, jHubMed.

NHSX and jHub are working with apps that have been assessed to the NHS Digital Health Technology Standard or against the Digital Assessment Questionnaire. The apps include TrackTogether, Your.MD, Connected Cognition and Corona Help UK.

Read more about NHS technology in the pandemic

jHub Defence Innovation is part of the Ministry of Defence and Strategic Command and focuses on “miltech”, market-ready or near-market technology that can be adapted for military use.

It funds and accelerates tech pilots in the military and procures innovative projects through its innovation board. jHub is mainly interested in the areas of artificial intelligence, autonomy, data analytics, simulation, behavioural sciences and blockchain.

Its team, based at Aldgate Tower, near Tech City in London, includes members of the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, as well as civil servants, commercial and financial officers.

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