Filipino Techs Locally Make Covid-19 Test Kits

A team of homegrown Filipino scientists provided Philippine health authorities with a locally developed Covid-19 test kits to help speed-up widespread testing.

Availability of testing kits was the initial problem met by the Philippine government in combating Covid-19 when it became known that the disease had entered the country. Yet a group of 15 Filipino scientists from the University of the Philippines in Manila’s National Institutes of Health and from the Philippine Genome Center came together to provide the critical tool as early as January 2020.

The Need to Perform Diagnostic Tests of Suspected Covid-19 Cases ASAP

It became imperative for the Philippine government to act quickly when it became known that two Chinese nationals from Wuhan province were able to enter the Philippines and transmit the novel coronavirus during the early periods of the outbreak.

More so when the first case of community-transmitted Covid-19 infection was confirmed last March 02, 2020, involving a 62-year old Filipino male who regularly visited a Muslim prayer hall in one of Metro Manila’s busy communities.

The revelation only denoted that the spread of the disease in the country has become imminent. However, the Department of Health only has 2,000 kits available at present, while the number of people testing positive for Covid 19 infection quickly rose from 5, to 34 to 140, as of this writing. The number is expected to rise further, which means more aggressive testing is needed.

Thankfully, the scientists and researchers at Philippine Genome Center were proactive in performing their mission.

Tasked to conduct researches that work toward the development of low-cost technologies and generating new knowledge that will enable the Philippine government to detect and control infectious diseases using sustainable medical tools and equitable medical solutions, the team of U.P. scientists were able to produce test kits that quickly passed and earned the Food and Drug Administration’s evaluations and approval.

The DOST’s Philippine Genome Center Developed a Test Kit Ahead of News about the Spread of Covid-19 in the Country

Dr. Raul V. Destura, Deputy Executive Director at the Philippine Genome Center (PGC), led the team of Filipino technologists and researchers in developing what is locally known as the The GenAmplify™ COVID-19 rRT-PCR Detection Kit.

According to Dr. Destura, the team started developing the test kit in January, 2020, immediately after Chinese scientists shared information about the entire genome sequence of the virus with the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO in turn, disseminated the information to scientists to countries across the globe; whilst urging all research organizations to use the information in helping their respective country meet the necessary requirements in combating the novel coronavirus that at that time, already showed potentials of turning into a pandemic.

Dr. Destura said they are currently coordinating their activities with the Department of Health to rapidly diagnose people suspected to have spread the Covid-19 plague. The PGC Executive Director also reported that they have already manufactured and stockpiled kits in numbers sufficient to test 1,000 suspected cases.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), under whose administration the PGC operates, said the local scientists will be able to immediately deploy FDA-approved 1,000 test kits In the coming weeks, and that they will be able to supply 2,000 to 3,000 more thereafter. The DOST also said that

”Although raw materials can be a limiting actor, the department gave assurance that their current supply of raw materials is enough to make 6,000 test kits for now.” “Orders to see to the development of 20,000 additional test kits have been placed.”

What makes the locally developed Covid-19 test kits significant is their affordability; an important factor in making the tool more accessible throughout the country.

Whereas the Philippine government has to procure foreign-developed test kits at a cost of ₱8,500 per unit, the GenAmplify™ Covid-19 testing tool developed by Filipino scientists costs only ₱1,320 per unit.

Reports have it that the WHO is also evaluating the testing capabilities of four other Philippine reference laboratories, namely the Lung Center of the Philippines in Metro Manila, the Baguio General Hospital in Northern Luzon, Vicente Sotto Medical Center in Visayas and the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Mindanao.

That way, the Philippine government through the Department of Health will be able to undertake widespread testing throughout the archipelago as soon as possible.

New FCC Rules Block USF Federal Subsidies of U.S. Network Carriers Planning to Buy Huawei and/or ZTE Equipment

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which administers the Universal Service Fund (USF) has added a new rule that bars American telecommunication companies from using and/or buying equipment from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE.

The new USF requisite is in connection with the FCC’s decision to officially recognize Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE as threats to national security.

FCC Board Chairman Ajit Pai remarked that in light of the threats posed by the aforementioned Chinese companies to the U.S. security and to the integrity of the country’s 5G future, the FCC cannot just sit idly and hope that nothing untoward happens.

The USF furnishes federal financial subsidies amounting to billions of dollars, available to American wireless carriers and network service providers, intending to offer wireless communication throughout the United States. The new FCC rule mirrors the shared views of U.S. intelligence officials and American legislators that Huawei and ZTE telecoms equipment could be used in carrying out espionage activities detrimental to the country’s security.

Actually, the FCC Committee plans to go further as the approving panel is also poised to sign on another ruling that requires U.S. wireless carriers to fully remove all Huawei equipment currently being used by their respective networks. According to FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, it follows that

”If Huawei equipment poses as a threat to the country’s national security, stopping federal subsidies is not enough.” “The equipment in question must also come out of the network.”

The new rules are set to take effect in February 2020, after having been pushed back several times over ever since the Trump administration took action in barring Huawei and ZTE from bringing their business to the U.S.

The Rural Wireless Association, a group comprised by rural wireless businesses, voiced concerns that making the change will come with significant across-the-board costs. Mainly because as rural wireless carriers and service providers, their plans and projections were based on using the more affordable and at the same time reliable, Huawei equipment.

Huawei Regards the New FCC Rules as Unlawful

Needless to say, the new FCC rules also pose as a major problem for Huawei. A Huawei spokesperson read a statement issued by the Chinese company, which believes the new USF condition is unlawful.

According to the statement, The Commission had adjudged Huawei as a threat to national security based on mistaken assumptions, innuendos and selective information. The FCC panel that approved the new ruling had done so without requiring and examining evidence that proves Huawei is indeed a security threat to the United States.

Huawei Launches Mate 30 Series for the 5G Technology

Huawei, the China-based ICT infrastructure and smart device provider launched its latest mobile devices, the Mate 30 and Mate 30 Pro. The company touted the new devices as potentially the world’s smartest 5G phone, despite a serious flaw: the lack of popular Google applications. The lack denotes that Mate 30 users will not be able to access Google Maps, YoutTube, Google Drive, Photo Galleryand Gmail. Moreover, Mate 30 series users will not be able to download apps via the Play Store, although Huawei built its own app store as an alternative.

Why the New Huawei Mate 30 Series Cannot Have Google Apps

Huawei CEO Richard Yu confirmed that users of the Mate 30 series will not be able to install the popular Google apps. The new Huawei communication devices they unveiled, are configured to run on an operating system that Huawei developed using the open-source version of Google’s Android OS; sans the latest updates present in the licensed versions.

Google is barred from collaborating with Huawei as a result of the U.S.-China trade war and mainly due to the Executive Order (EO) issued by president Donald Trump last May. The EO prohibits American companies from using information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure provided by blacklisted companies suspected as posing national security threats.

On the same day the EO was signed, the U.S. Commerce Department included Huawei and its 70 affiliates in the so-called “Entity List” of companies that cannot procure components and parts from U.S.businesses without first securing approval from the U.S. government.

That being the case, Google also blocked future Huawei devices from using updated versions of the Android OS. Although there has been some reprieves, to which the Commerce Department gave Huawei temporary and limited exemptions to let the company maintain telecommunications services and updates to existing Huawei users.

The reprieve is slated to end by November 19 of this year, and by that time, Huawei device users would have been weaned from using the brand. Apparently, the ban will stay thereafter, as the Commerce Department added 46 more of Huawei’s affiliates to the “Entity List.”

The larger issues against Huawei are the 21 indictment charges filed by the U.S. Justice Department against Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s CFO and daughter of Huawei founder. The charges include allegations of theft of trade secrets, bank and wire fraud, as well as conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government.

Singapore Researchers Develop Highly Advanced e-Skin Sensory for Robots and Prosthetics

Researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) have developed a unique sensor system designed to give robots and prosthetics, artificial skin with human sense of touch. They call it the “Asynchronous Coded Electronic Skin (ACES), which is an e-skin that can yield the same or even better sense of touch as the human epidermis. The breakthrough sensor system developed by the researchers enables the e-skin to respond 1,000 times faster than the human sense of touch.

Assistant Professor Benjamin Tee of the NUS Faculty of Engineering and his team, all from the NUS Department of Materials Science and Engineering, have been working for more than a year in developing a sensor system modeled after the human sensory nervous system, but with greater capability at performing better. Although electronic skins have been previously developed, the ACES e-skin is different.

Unlike earlier models of e-skins that have interlinked wiring systems, the ACES sensor system is made up of a network of sensors connected by way of a single electrical conductor. The improvement makes the ACES skin innovation robust, as the absence of wiring systems reduces sensitivity to damage, as well as makes the innovation scaleable.

The ACES Sensory Capability

The electronic skin technology developed by Asst. Professor Tee and his team is touted as the fastest ever developed. Compared to the human sensory system, NUS’ ACES detects touches 1,000 times faster. At a speed of less than 60 nanoseconds, it can differentiate physical contacts when interacting with different sensors, even in large numbers.

Robustness of the ACES-Enabled Skin

Inasmuch as e-skins will experience frequent physical contact with objects in the environment, the NUS research team led by Asst. Professor Tee made sure their design is robust enough to withstand physical damage. In order to attain such a goal, they outfitted the ACES e-skin with sensors that can be linked to a common electrical conductor, while still allowing each sensor to operate independently.

The configuration therefore empowers the ACES-enabled electronic skin to keep functioning as long as there is at least one connection between the conductor and the sensor; making the e-skin on a robot or prosthetics more robust against damages.

Scalability of the ACES Electronic Skin

According to Asst. Prof Tee

“Scalability is an important consideration because large pieces of high performing electronic skins are required to cover relatively broad surface areas of prosthetic devices and robots.”

That being the case, the NUS assistant professor and his team made it possible for ACES e-skins to easily combine with any kind of sensor skin layers; such as those designed to recognize temperatures and humidity by way of touch. Asst. Professor Tee cited the scalability trait as important, as it gives the ACES-enabled skin exceptional sense of touch that can work for a wide range of purposes.

Through scalability, ACES-enabled e-skin can be developed for different potential applications. Some examples include; but not limited to, creating robots that carry out disaster recovery missions, or warehouse-packing tasks, as well as realistic prosthetic limbs that will allow persons with disabilities to restore their sense of touch.

Distinguishing Graphic Designs Thru Effective Application of Design Elements and Fundamentals

Graphic designing, as many have already found out, is no longer a daunting task. After all, there are now tutorials and graphic software like the Adobe Photoshop, CorelDraw and Gimp that enable aspiring graphic artists to create designs, even with a minimum of skill and artistic capability. It is now just a question of whether the design created can achieve the desired impact and deliver its purpose as a visual communications medium.

In fact graphic designs are everywhere, from as trivial as a candy wrapper to as common and massive as billboards, signage, t-shirts, coffee mugs and a host of other commercial, cultural and social usages.

Determining their effectiveness is gauged by their ability to influence consumers into buying a product, or in providing information needed, as well as in drawing positive attention to itself as an excellent creative work.

That being said, graphic artwork can take on a distinction of being an effective tool for communicating a specific message. In order to attain that level, designing a visual material requires efficient presentation of the basic elements of art, and proper execution of the fundamentals of graphic design.

Basic Elements of Art and How They are Best Presented

Basic elements of art or design are the lines, shapes and forms used to create artistic compositions, serving as the very foundations of a graphic design. Such elements take on different characteristics like color, form (flat, 2D or 3D), and texture (smooth, rough, hard or smooth), which are means of adding depth, realism or interests to a graphic work.

Efficient use of basic elements means factoring in tone and balance in their presentation. That way the main concept or message conveyed by a visual project is immediately perceived and more importantly, understood.

In order to achieve efficiency in the use of the basic elements of art, there must be proper application and execution of the fundamentals of graphic design.

Fundamentals of Graphic Design and their Significance

The fundamentals of graphic design pertain to the methods applied, in order to make the basic elements and characteristics of an artistic concept, work effectively together.

Fundamentals may pertain to the tone set by lines to suggest moods, such as, but not limited to active, passive, dramatic, stable, unstable and noble.

Color theory is also fundamental to graphic design, as it explains the art and science of color usage, in terms  of combinations, mixes, matches and contrasts. An in-depth understanding of color theory therefore, enables a designer to create visual art that has great potential to achieve its purpose.

Typeface is another graphic design fundamental; being the main carrier of the message. Presented by way of letters,numbers, symbols and punctuation marks, there are no hard rules to follow in the use of typeface; but only adherence to the principle of choosing one that makes the most sensible impact.

Balance as a fundamental aspect of a visual design is often the most influential, because its application in a layout can either emphasize or obscure the focal object of a graphic design.