UnifAI Technology wins contract with UK Health Security Agency

A close up shot of a gloved handle holding a lateral flow test a single line.

UnifAI Technology has been awarded a contract to license its AI powered digital reader to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to support NHS Test and Trace.

UnifAI Technology

UK-based artificial intelligence (AI) company UnifAI Technology was founded in 2019 to use AI to improve the health and well-being of people, infrastructure and the environment.

The digital reader, developed with Innovate UK funding, uses cloud-based AI to turn a typical smartphone into a medical device for the accurate reading of lateral flow diagnostic tests.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) lateral flow tests have become familiar to us all over the past two years.

Most people are no longer advised to use them. However, this is not the case for frontline health workers and residents and staff in care homes. They have to continue to use the tests to help keep themselves and those around them safe.

Remote digital COVID-19 diagnostics

Lateral flow tests are manual devices, relying on individuals to read, interpret and record visual results (typically lines, dots or colours).

Users can sometimes make mistakes in reading and recording the results, or even fail to manually record information. Vital information on the prevalence and spread of COVID-19 can be inaccurate or lost.

Today, UnifAI Technology has announced that following a competitive tender, the UKHSA has selected its digital reader as the sole solution to help further digitise the NHS Test and Trace programme.

The digital reader will help reduce human error in reading and recording results.

A real word impact

Professor Andrew Beggs, Professor of Surgery and Cancer Genetics at the University of Birmingham and University Hospitals Birmingham and advisor to the UK Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), said:

The UnifAI technology allows us to further bolster our capability to read lateral flow devices highly accurately and ‘better than the human eye’.

With this we will continue to ensure the highest accuracy we can in reading lateral flow devices for COVID-19, reducing transmission and having a real world impact on the transmission of COVID.

99.95% accuracy rate

The UnifAI Technology AI digital reader uses a proprietary deep learning AI capability in combination with users’ smartphone cameras. This automates the reading and recording of COVID-19 lateral flow test results, turning analogue and siloed tests into digital tests.

Through extensive trials with DHSC, UnifAI has demonstrated that the digital reader does this more accurately than the human eye with an accuracy rate of 99.95%.

The digital reader is an example of transparent and ‘explainable’ AI that can demonstrate auditable outputs for every test. This enables key stakeholders such as UKHSA and the regulators to see that performance is delivered as intended.

Supported by Innovate UK

Initially developed for the COVID-19 pandemic, with funding and support from Innovate UK, the underlying capability is test-agnostic.

This means it can be used to digitise a wide range of human and animal health conditions or environmental testing.

Simon Edmonds, Chief Business Officer of Innovate UK, said:

We are delighted to see UnifAI digital reader technology being licensed with the UKHSA. Using AI to improve the accuracy of COVID-19 lateral flow tests was a great innovation to fund.

Limitless automatic scalability

UnifAI Technology is partnered with Amazon Web Service (AWS) and the solution is hosted in AWS cloud services, giving it virtually limitless scalability automatically and on-demand.

Professor Camila Caiado, Professor in Statistics at Durham University and advisor to the UK DHSC, said:

UnifAI Technology’s digital reader shows that machine learning techniques can read point of need medical tests objectively and with high levels of sensitivity and specificity.

What is really impressive about the digital reader is that how it works is demonstrable, auditable and explainable, unlike many other ‘black box’ AI solutions.

This provides really helpful insight to help health practitioners understand results, lateral flow device manufacturers to manage their products, and regulators to provide oversight.

UnifAI’s technology will improve our response to COVID-19 and can help with future pandemic preparedness, and has the potential to improve remote diagnostics for other infectious diseases.

World class AI capabilities

Phil Hughes, Chair and CEO of UnifAI Technology, said:

Using AI to improve the health and wellbeing of people is part of our company mission, and UnifAI has developed world class AI capabilities to support remote diagnostics.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started to sweep the world we focussed our attention on how UnifAI Technology could use our capabilities to help.

We have worked with Innovate UK and UKHSA to develop and test our AI digital reader, and have been appointed the sole provider of this capability to the UKHSA. We are delighted to play our part in helping manage the risk COVID-19 still presents to frontline health workers and vulnerable people.

We believe that our capability can support any country with its current COVID-19 pandemic, and help them to better manage future pandemics.

Beyond that, digital healthcare and remote diagnostics have the potential to play a significant role in delivering healthcare services at the point of need, making health services more accessible.

UnifAI Technology will continue to develop its AI capabilities to help improve the health and wellbeing of people around the world, and we will always work to ensure that our capabilities are just as accessible in low and middle income countries as they are in the higher income areas such as the UK, Europe and the US.

Top image:  Credit: Thomas Faull, iStock, Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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