Coincidence is merely the absence of data or the inability to understand it.
A few words about me
First off, as I state in my intro, I have had the privilege of working on some amazing projects with some amazing people, doing research on a variety of subjects and solving a myriad of complex problems. I’m a scientist and technologist at heart and I’m happiest in a lab. Many of my achievements are in large part due to the talented people that I have been lucky enough to work with.
Data Analytics in the 90’s
I started my career in the late nineties, designing and building systems for Internet Service Providers (ISPs). For Planet Internet I invented a system (KTO) to measure the customer experience during tech-support calls and linked the customer scores directly to customer service representatives (CSR). This allowed Planet Internet to focus training on individual weak spots of these CSR’s. I also invented a Helpdesk Scripting System (SAS) whereby the CSR’s – in a scripted Q&A call – would provide identical user experience to customer during tech-support calls, regardless of the experience of skill-set of the CSR. This system allowed Planet Internet to attract in-experienced employees, while providing excellent problem solving to customers. Subsequently I invented a software application called ART – Automatic Restore Tool – which automatically fixed connection and e-mail issues on the customers PC/Laptop. This resulted in a significant reduction in incoming calls. Planet licensed these technologies to Wipro, Planet Internet Belgium, Planet Internet Germany and others.
Connectivity around 2000
That’s how my software and data analytics career started. In 2001, after founding Diginext, I invented the first ever ‘Connection Manager for Mobile Data’ for KPN Mobile. This connection manager was licensed by a variety of Mobile Operators, Device Manufacturers and Retailers, such as; Vodafone Group (worldwide), O2 Group (3 countries), Swisscom, KPN, Bouygues Telecom, Entel PCS, Nextel (Peru, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Brazil), Panasonic Europa (all Panasonic Toughbooks), Best Buy, Motorola, GSMA, Microsoft, Siemens, Roche, Telindus, Freedom4, Debitel and Toyota.
In 2004/2005 I worked on inventing a standard method to allow wireless devices to dynamically connect to various types of wireless networks and, upon getting connected, retrieve information from a server (such as e-mail). I received a patent for this system in 2005. 2 years before the introduction of the iPhone. Today, this method has been built-in to every smartphone, tablet and PC/Laptop (Android, iOS and MS Windows) on the planet. I was also one of the committee members responsible for the standardization of connectivity protocols and methods in the mobile industry, under direction of the GSMA.
Back to Data Analytics in 2005
In 2005 I started focusing more on data analytics. I designed a ‘Reporting and Update- Server’ for Mobile Operators and Retailers. It was the start off BIG-DATA Solutions. Vodafone licensed the technology for all its 38 Operating Countries, as well as various other Telco’s and Device Manufacturers.
2007 – Global study & field trials with Microsoft and 13 mobile operators
In 2007 Microsoft and the GSM Association (GSMA) retained my services to spearhead a large quantitative and qualitative study, spanning across 13 countries, using my Connection Manager and Data Analytics Platform. The goal was to quantify market opportunity – by tracking, collecting and analyzing user data over a period of 6 months – for mobile broadband enabled mid-range notebooks. The GSMA announced in November that the research revealed an addressable market of 70 Million PC Buyers interested in notebooks with built-in mobile broadband
Best Buy – the world’s biggest electronics retailer at the time – licensed the technology in 2009 to provide consumers with the best possible mobile data plan, based on where they lived and worked. The system collected and analyzed millions of user connections and experiences every day, while being completely legal and in line with privacy legislation worldwide. I also enjoyed working on securing the system, given the immense amount of user-data that was being collected and processed. The system knew everything you can imagine about a user and their experience, without knowing the identity of the user. The system did not need to know the identity to be able to ‘make an offer you can’t refuse‘ 😉
Focusing more on Privacy and Cybersecurity in 2014
Around 2014 I started to get passionate about doing more in cybersecurity, after the Edward Snowden (NSA) Leaks. For two years I focused on combining BIG-Data with electronics while studying privacy laws and several acts, including the patriot act. The challenge was to make sure an electronic device could circumvent the applicable laws, that were forcing social media companies to cooperate with the governments’ data request. As a ‘Software Development Company’ since 2001 and contracts with multinationals, capturing and storing their user-data we already had extensive Privacy and Intellectual Property expertise.
I subsequently invented a Secure Wireless Router and Digital Interactive Voice Assistant. Wi-Fi router focused on managing secure connectivity and ‘Personal Data’ while addressing Mobile Operator ‘indoor-coverage’ and network capacity challenges. I designed a routers hybrid-cloud architecture, allowing for additional features such as; a Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) that addressed malware, phishing and many other viruses. Other features included remote management, real-time updates, dynamic DNS and (extended) cloud storage. In 2015 Amazon launched the ECHO and Alexa.
Fun fact: I hacked the smartphones of 400 lawyers, while giving them a lecture about the pitfalls of different privacy laws in different countries and how governments access each others data. During the lecture I showcased the circumvention of local privacy legislation and the importance of cybersecurity. The hack got their attention.
2020 – From computer viruses to real viruses
During development of the router I got interested in hybrid clouds and computer viruses. Something I still work on whenever I get a chance. I believe ‘viral architecture’ can be used as an efficient – non-centralized – update and delivery mechanism. Viruses don’t need any infrastructure. Just right circumstances. Not all viruses are bad… 😉
March 2020 I started doing research, together with various scientists from two universities, to investigate a possible correlation between humidity and the spread of respiratory viruses; Influenza (the flu) and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).
I designed and architected a cloud-based platform that collected data in-realtime from 37 weather stations of the KNMI (Dutch National Weather Service), automatically converted the relative humidity into specific humidity, and integrated daily COVID-19 related data from RIVM (The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) while also integrating data population data from CBS (The National Statistical office). All the data was integrated autonomously, using various API calls.
The relationship between specific humidity and influenza/SARS-CoV-2 in the Netherlands was evaluated over time and at regional level. Parametric and non-parametric correlation coefficients were calculated to quantify the relationship between humidity and influenza, using five years of weekly data from Nivel.
Bayesian spatio-temporal models-with a Poisson and a Gaussian likelihood- were estimated to find the relationship between regional humidity and the daily cases of SARS-CoV-2 in the municipalities and provinces of the Netherlands. We observed an inverse (negative) relationship between specific humidity and the incidence of influenza between 2015 and 2019.
Our space-time analysis indicated that an increase of specific humidity of one gram of water vapor per kilogram of air (1 g/kg) is related to a reduction of approximately 5% in the risk of COVID-19 infections.
Conclusion: The increase in humidity during the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 in the Netherlands helped to reduce the risk of regional COVID-19 infections.
Public policies that promote higher levels of specific humidification-above 6 g/Kg-can lead to significant reductions in the spread of respiratory viruses, such as influenza and SARS-CoV-2. We published our paper online. You can review it here. Since then I have been able to accurately predict the increase or decrease of the spread of COVID-19 cases, purely based on the Humidity levels. It should be noted that I am not the only scientist with this opinion, as i write in this blog.
I then designed a user-interface on top of the system to provide Dutch citizens insight into the risk in their local municipalities. The UI is designed based on the conclusions from our research. As a result people can view the system to decide whether or not to wear a mask and go out to a social gathering. The site is at http://www.coronaweer.nl
I have been very lucky and i’m grateful for all the amazing people that I have met along my journey. I love science, math, physics and data. I have very little care for the title I wear.