A COVID-19 test which listens to a person’s cough could be a game-changer in the fight against the pandemic – and a Scottish tech firm has played a key role. 

Based on research from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), ‘Cough-In-A-Box’ has been shown to correctly identify 98.5% of positive cases, including 100% of asymptomatic cases. 

Scottish software firm Cloudsoft, Fujitsu and Formwize helped the UK Government implement the test, which can accurately detect the virus using only voice data – audio recordings of a user coughing directly into their smartphone’s microphone. 

Analysing more than 70,000 recordings submitted by volunteers, which included around 2,500 from people confirmed to have COVID, researchers from MIT were able to train the AI model.  

Since December 2020, a team of Cloudsoft engineers have been working with specialists from Fujitsu, Formwize and the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care to convert the application to the cloud.  

This has allowed the UK Government to rapidly scale the application for 40,000 further trials, as well as ensure it meets the strict demands for data processing and security due to the need of anonymising personal voice data and combining it with participant’s medical history and PCR test data from all four home nations across the UK.  

In addition, by utilising a combination of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure cloud platforms, the application benefits from increased resilience and reliability, which are key requirements for the future use of the project as the UK Government expands its ongoing trials.

Ross Gray, CEO, Cloudsoft, said: “This is transformational technology for the greater human good and we’re proud to at the forefront of technological innovation to contribute to overcoming COVID-19.  

“With so many applications in the real world, this technology could be a game-changer for so many sectors – including travel and hospitality, providing the current trials continue to show the same level of effectiveness as the initial MIT study.” 

David Cairns, Head of Innovation at Fujitsu, said: “This is exactly the sort of project that is only possible in the cloud. We relied on Cloudsoft’s expertise to co-architect the application to be cloud-native, ensuring that it could meet the demands of scale, reliability and security.  

“This cutting-edge approach to Covid-19 detection has huge potential and is a perfect example of innovating for the human good.” 

The UK Joint Biosecurity Centre is now working with the Alan Turing Institute to assess the wider feasibility of the application, with the initial trial being expanded to include those taking part in the REACT1 COVID-19 prevalence survey.