Fujitsu Cough-in-a-Box

Fujitsu’s Cough-in-a-Box is an app funded by the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care to collect and analyse audio recordings of COVID-19 symptoms. 

Operator: Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)
Developer: Fujitsu; Formwize; Cloudsoft
Country: UK
Sector: Health
Purpose: Diagnose COVID-19
Technology: Machine learning
Issue: Accuracy/reliability
Transparency: 

Risks and harms 🛑

While it has shown high accuracy in identifying positive cases, Fujitsu's Cough-In-A-Box has been criticised for being unreliable and posing potential data security and privacy risks.

Research by The Alan Turing Institute and Royal Statistical Society, commissioned by the UK Health Security Agency, discovered that cough-analysing algorithms do a poor job of diagnosing COVID-19. The team found that even the most accurate cough-detecting model performed worse than a model based on user-reported systems and demographic data, such as age and gender. 

One such model was Fujitsu’s Cough in a Box, an app funded to the tune of GBP 100,000 in 2021 by the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care to collect and analyse audio recordings of COVID-19 symptoms. This was despite a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) team finding that, when new cough sounds were introduced, the algorithm accurately identified 98.5% of coughs from people who were confirmed to have COVID-19, including 100% of coughs from people with no symptoms.

The researchers had used technology that aimed to identify a signature noise, known as a biomarker, in a person’s cough that could be linked to a positive COVID-19 PCR test result. Their findings led to efforts to build an algorithmic-powered app to provide people with a cheap and easy method to test for COVID-19.

Page info
Type: System
Published: February 2023
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