Smartphone App For Leftover Vaccinations

South Korea’s Disease Control and Prevention Agency launched a pilot program yesterday to minimize vaccination waste using a nationwide smartphone app. People who are over 30 years of age can search for leftover doses on their smartphones. If any are available, they can book an appointment immediately within the app, and then get to the medical center within hours to receive the injection. One can tag up to five nearby inoculation centers to receive an instant message when a dose becomes available.

These leftover doses arise from people who have missed their appointment, but also just as you would expect when considering the short shelf life of the opened vaccine, the number of doses per vial, and modulo arithmetic. Within hours of the program rolling out, people began complaining about server problems and the lack of available doses. But this is a pilot program, after all, so some glitches are to be expected.

The full program is supposed to begin on June 9th, although it isn’t clear how it will be different from the pilot project, other than presumably having fewer bugs. The lead picture above shows the availability of leftover vaccines in central Seoul this morning — zero (the symbol 없음 means “none”). But the system does indeed work and people received vaccinations yesterday utilizing this program.

Technically speaking, this isn’t a new app, but rather, it is integrated into the two most popular South Korean portal sites. Anyone already using KakaoTalk or the Naver portal on their smartphone can use this leftover vaccination service with just the press of a few icons. Are the health authorities in your region utilizing smartphone apps or online reservations sites to distribute these leftover doses, doses that would otherwise be discarded? Let us know in the comments below.

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Open-Source Oxygen Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, May 5 at noon Pacific for the Open-Source Oxygen Hack Chat with Maher Daoudi and the OxiKit Team!

In such tumultuous times, it may be hard to remember last week, let alone last year. But if you dig back a bit, you may recall what a panic the world was in at this point in 2020 about the ventilator crisis. With COVID-19 cases on the rise and the potential for great numbers of patients needing intensive care, everyone and their brother was hacking together makeshift ventilators, in the well-intentioned belief that their inventions would help relieve the coming shortage of these lifesaving medical mechanical miracles.

As it came to pass, though, more COVID-19 patients have benefited from high-flow oxygen therapy than from mechanical ventilation. That’s great news in places where medical oxygen is cheap and easily available, but that’s always the case. We’ve seen recent reports of hospitals in India running out of oxygen, and even rural and remote areas of the developed world can find themselves caught without enough of the vital gas.

To meet the world’s increasing demand for high-flow oxygen therapy, the team at OxiKit has developed an open-source oxygen concentrator that can be built for far less than what commercial concentrators cost. By filtering the nitrogen out of the air, the concentrator provides oxygen at 90% or higher purity, at a flow of up to 25 liters per minute.

Oxikit founder Maher Daoudi and some of the technical team will join us for this Hack Chat to discuss the details of making oxygen concentrators. We’ll learn about how they work, what the design process for their current concentrator was like, and how they got past the obstacles and delivered on the promise of high-flow oxygen for the masses.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, May 5 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones have you tied up, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.
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A Simple But Effective High-Flow Oxygen Concentrator From Hardware Store Parts

To say that a lot has happened in the year since the COVID-19 pandemic started is an understatement of epic proportions, so much so that it may be hard to remember how the hardware hacking community responded during those early days, with mass-produced PPE, homebrew ventilators and the like. But we don’t recall seeing too many attempts to build something like this DIY oxygen concentrator during that initial build-out phase.

Given the simplicity and efficacy of the design, dubbed OxiKit, it seems strange that we didn’t see more of these devices. OxiKit uses zeolite, a porous mineral that can be used as a molecular sieve. The tiny beads are packed into columns made from hardware store PVC pipes and fittings and connected to an oil-less air compressor through some solenoid-controlled pneumatic valves. After being cooled in a coil of copper pipe, the compressed air is forced through one zeolite column, which preferentially retains the nitrogen while letting the oxygen pass through. The oxygen stream is split, with part going into a buffer tank and part going into the outlet of the second zeolite column, where it forces the adsorbed nitrogen to be released. An Arduino controls the valves that alternate the gas flow back and forth, resulting in 15 liters per minute of 96% pure oxygen.

OxiKit isn’t optimized as a commercial oxygen concentrator is, so it’s not particularly quiet. But it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a commercial unit, and an easy build for most hackers. OxiKit’s designs are all open source, but they do sell kits and some of the harder-to-source parts and supplies, like the zeolite. We’d be tempted to build something like this just because the technology is so neat; having a source of high-flow oxygen available isn’t a bad idea, either.

Hackaday Links: March 14, 2021

It’ll be Pi Day when this article goes live, at least for approximately half the globe west of the prime meridian. We always enjoy Pi Day, not least for the excuse to enjoy pie and other disc-shaped foods. It’s also cool to ponder the mysteries of a transcendental number, which usually get a good treatment by the math YouTube community. This year was no disappointment in this regard, as we found two good pi-related videos, both by Matt Parker over at Standup Maths. The first one deals with raising pi to the pi to the pi to the pi and how that may or may not result in an integer that’s tens of trillions of digits long. The second and more entertaining video is a collaboration with Steve Mould which aims to estimate the value of pi by measuring the volume of a molecular monolayer of oleic acid floating on water. The process was really interesting and the results were surprisingly accurate; this might make a good exercise to do with kids to show them what pi is all about.

Remember basic physics and first being exposed to the formula for universal gravitation? We sure do, and we remember thinking that it should be possible to calculate the force between us and our classmates. It is, of course, but actually measuring the attractive force would be another thing entirely. But researchers have done just that, using objects substantially smaller than the average high school student: two 2-mm gold balls. The apparatus the Austrian researchers built used 90-milligram gold balls, one stationary and one on a suspended arm. The acceleration between the two moves the suspended ball, which pivots a mirror attached to the arm to deflect a laser beam. That they were able to tease a signal from the background noise of electrostatic, seismic, and hydrodynamic forces is quite a technical feat.

We noticed a lot of interest in the Antikythera mechanism this week, which was apparently caused by the announcement of the first-ever complete computational model of the ancient device’s inner workings. The team from University College London used all the available data gleaned from the 82 known fragments of the mechanism to produce a working model of the mechanism in software. This in turn was used to create some wonderful CGI animations of the mechanism at work — this video is well worth the half-hour it takes to watch. The UCL team says they’re now at work building a replica of the mechanism using modern techniques. One of the team says he has some doubts that ancient construction methods could have resulted in some of the finer pieces of the mechanism, like the concentric axles needed for some parts. We think our friend Clickspring might have something to say about that, as he seems to be doing pretty well building his replica using nothing but tools and methods that were available to the original maker. And by doing so, he managed to discern a previously unknown feature of the mechanism.

We got a tip recently that JOGL, or Just One Giant Lab, is offering microgrants for open-source science projects aimed at tackling the problems of COVID-19. The grants are for 4,000€ and require a minimal application and reporting process. The window for application is closing, though — March 21 is the deadline. If you’ve got an open-source COVID-19 project that could benefit from a cash infusion to bring to fruition, this might be your chance.

And finally, we stumbled across a video highlighting some of the darker aspects of amateur radio, particularly those who go through tremendous expense and effort just to be a pain in the ass. The story centers around the Mt. Diablo repeater, an amateur radio repeater located in California. Apparently someone took offense at the topics of conversation on the machine, and deployed what they called the “Annoy-o-Tron” to express their displeasure. The device consisted of a Baofeng transceiver, a cheap MP3 player loaded with obnoxious content, and a battery. Encased in epoxy resin and concrete inside a plastic ammo can, the jammer lugged the beast up a hill 20 miles (32 km) from the repeater, trained a simple Yagi antenna toward the site, and walked away. It lasted for three days and while the amateurs complained about the misuse of their repeater, they apparently didn’t do a thing about it. The jammer was retrieved six weeks after the fact and hasn’t been heard from since.

May (No Longer) Contain Hackers: MCH 2021 Has Been Cancelled

In a sad but unsurprising turn of events, MCH, this summer’s large hacker camp in the Netherlands, has been cancelled. Organising a large event in a pandemic would inevitably carry some risk, and despite optimism that the European vaccine strategy might have delivered a safe environment by the summer that risk was evidently too high for the event organisers IFCAT to take on. Our community’s events come from within the community itself rather than from commercial promoters, and the financial liability of committing to hire the site and infrastructure would have been too high to bear had the event succumbed to the pandemic. Tickets already purchased will be refunded, and they leave us with a crumb of solace by promising that alternatives will be considered. We understand their decision, and thank them for trying.

As with all such events the behind-the-scenes work for MCH has already started. The badge has been revealed in prototype form, the call for participation has been completed, and the various other event team planning will no doubt be well  under way. This work is unlikely to be wasted, and we hope that it will bear fruit at the next Dutch event whenever that may be.

It would have been nice to think that by now we could be seeing the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, but despite the sterling work of scientists, healthcare workers, and epidemiologists, it seems we still have a a way to go before we’ll once more be hanging out together drinking Club-Mate in the company of thousands of others. If the pandemic is weighing upon you, take care of yourselves.

A Brief History Of Viruses

It was around the year 1590 when mankind figured out how to use optical lenses to bring into sight things smaller than the natural eye can observe. With the invention of the microscope, a new and unexplored world was discovered. It will likely be of great surprise to the reader that scientists of the time did not believe that within this new microscopic realm lay the source of sickness and disease. Most would still hold on to a belief of what was known as Miasma theory, which dates back to the Roman Empire. This theory states that the source of disease was contaminated air through decomposing organic materials. It wouldn’t be until the 1850’s that a man by the name of Louis Pasteur, from whom we get “pasteurization”, would promote Germ Theory into the spotlight of the sciences.

Louis Pasteur experimenting in his lab.
Louis Pasteur. Source

Pasteur, considered by many as the father of microbiology, would go on to assist fellow biologist Charles Chameberland in the invention of the aptly named Pasteur Chamberland filter — a porcelain filter with a pore size between 100 and 1000 nanometers. This was small enough to filter out the microscopic bacteria and cells known at that time from a liquid suspension, leaving behind a supply of uncontaminated water. But like so many other early scientific instrumentation inventions it would lead to the discovery of something unexpected. In this case, a world far smaller than 100 nanometers… and add yet another dimension to the ever-shrinking world of the microscopic.

This is when we began to learn about viruses.

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This Isn’t Your Father’s Yellow Card

As the global vaccination effort rolls out in many countries, people will increasingly be required to provide evidence for various reasons, especially travelers. Earlier this month a coalition which includes Microsoft, the Mayo Clinic, Oracle, MITRE, and others announced an effort to establish digital vaccination records called the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI). This isn’t going to be a brand new thing, but rather an initiative to provide digital proof-of-vaccination to people who want it, using existing open standards:

  • Verifiable Credentials, per World Wide Web Consortium Recommendation (VC Data Model 1.0)
  • Industry standard format and security, per the Health Level Seven International (HL7) FHIR standard

In addition, the World Health Organization formed the Smart Vaccination Certificate Working Group in December. Various other countries and organizations also have technical solutions in the works or already deployed. If a consensus doesn’t form soon, we can see this quickly becoming a can of worms. Imagine having to obtain multiple certifications of your vaccination because of non-uniform requirements between countries, organizations, and/or purposes.

Older readers and international travelers may be wondering, “don’t we already have a vaccination card system?” Indeed we do: the Carte Jaune or Yellow Card. The concept of a “vaccination passport” was conceived and agreed upon at the International Sanitary Convention for Aerial Navigation in 1933. Over the years the names and diseases of interest have changed, but since 2007 it has been formally called the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP). In recent times, yellow fever was the only vaccination of interest to travelers, but other vaccinations or booster shots can be recorded as well. One problem with the paper Yellow Card is that it is ridiculously easy to forge. Nefarious or lazy travelers could download it from the WHO site, print it on appropriate yellow card stock, and forge a doctor’s signature. The push for a more secure ICVP is not completely unreasonable.

Reading the instructions on the Yellow Card brings up a couple of interesting points:

  • This certificate is valid only if the vaccine or prophylaxis used has been approved by the World Health Organization — Currently the Pfizer vaccine is the only one to be approved by WHO, and even that is only an emergency approval. If you receive a non-Pfizer vaccination, what then?
  • The only disease specifically designated in the International Health Regulations (2005) for which proof of vaccination or prophylaxis may be required as a condition of entry to a State Party, is yellow fever — This one is interesting, and suggests that member states cannot require proof of Covid19 vaccination as an entry requirement, a situation that will no doubt be quickly revised or ignored.

Note: This writeup is about vaccinations, not about immunity. While immunity certificates have been used from time to time throughout modern history, the concept of an international immunity passport is not well established like the ICVP.