Liverpool tech firm uses ‘Sim City’-type system to predict Covid spread

10th September 2020

The firm that creates games for PC, mobile and the Nintendo Switch won a Government competition and is focused on helping get communities back to normal.

CGA’s new technology focuses on how the coronavirus is transmitted from person to person

A Liverpool tech firm has worked with the Government to create a “pattern of life”, Sim City-style mathematical modelling system to better predict the spread of Covid-19.

CGA Simulation has set up technologies hoping to help communities get back to normal following the pandemic after winning Government competition Innovate UK.

Baltic Triangle-based CGA mathematically models how Covid-19 spreads in local communities using ‘Agent Based Modelling’ (ABM), which focuses on how the virus is transmitted from person to person, in a small town – based on Southport – as people go about their daily business.

The team, which creates games for PC, mobile and more recently Nintendo Switch, designed a virtual ‘digital twin’ copy of the town, in which to model community spread of Covid-19, based on simulated interactions between humans, their vehicles and frequently visited buildings and focal points.

This town hub will be used to analyse people’s interactions and likelihood of transmitting the disease as they travel between school, the hairdressers, a bar or church.

Jon Wetherall, MD of CGA Simulation, and simulation modelling expert, said: “Our technology acknowledges that each person in a community has a different commute to work, school or the gym, different friends and hobbies.

“Each ‘person’ we model in our digital world makes independent decisions about where they go and what their daily activities are, giving a more realistic view of how people’s movements around a town or a city can impact on disease spread.”

ABM differs to that being used by most academic epidemiology researchers, as it assumes each ‘thing’ being modelled has its own ‘agency’, or freewill – to interact independently with the world around it.

Other technologies assume the things – vehicles, people – being modelled operate with a hive mind.

Mr Wetherall added: “Modelling that gives us more detailed insights into human/viral interactions would help create ‘combination interventions’.

“We can model the risks associated with opening up different parts of society: cinemas + school + sports facility, to create mix and match interventions. We would open up and lockdown sections of society, activities or spaces at different times.

“We can also model risks associated with different numbers of friends and family meeting in groups, inside or outside at any one time, to find out what the upper limit of safer is.”

The CGA team creates ‘living towns’ like Sim City, using real geography via mapping data.

‘Agents’, the people or cars in the town, commute to work, go for lunch, or to play football, capturing more complex ‘real world’ interactions.

The algorithms used by CGA’s technology ‘feed’ off the detailed information the Government has about how Covid-19 spreads.

This means it’s used to help identify where local lockdowns would be most useful. The technology can also be used to model the role of ‘super spreaders’ on viral transmission.


10th September 2020