Mozilla starts funding open source coronavirus tech projects

The COVID-19 Solutions scheme is funding developers contributing to the fight against the outbreak.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer on

Mozilla has revealed the first set of open source projects that will receive funding for developing innovative technology for use during the coronavirus pandemic. 

On Wednesday, the non-profit said that three recipients, so far, have been selected from over 160 applicants from 30 countries.

The COVID-19 Solutions Fund Awards, launched under the Mozilla Open Source Support (MOSS) awards program, offers applicants up to $50,000 each to develop open source technology that tackles issues caused by COVID-19.

The coronavirus outbreak has highlighted problems with healthcare system capacity, caused a spike in demand for key equipment including ventilators, masks, and gloves, and has forced many of us to abandon how we used to live in order to adhere to social distancing measures. 

At the time of writing, there are roughly 3.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide. 

Mozilla's first $20,000 award has gone to Austin, Texas-based Public Invention, for the VentMon proposal. 

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The VentMon inline device is plugged into the airway of an emergency ventilator to measure flow and pressure. VentMon, therefore, is able to contribute to other ventilator development projects underway by testing new designs to see if they conform to safety standards. 

If a ventilator fails -- whether during testing or while being used in ICU -- VentMon sets off an audio alarm and is also able to alert operators via the Internet. 

The funding will be used to buy the parts needed to assemble the first batch of Ventmon devices, destined for use with 20 open source engineering teams currently working on ventilator designs. 

The second award, of $50,000, goes to Bay Area's Recidiviz, a non-profit criminal justice data platform provider. The organization is building a modeling tool that aims to predict the potential spread and impact of COVID-19 in jails.

According to The Lancet, testing capacity, PPE availability, and space are already problematic, and it is unlikely that prison systems across the world are equipped to deal with severe outbreaks. 

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Recidiviz's data tool aims to provide prison administrators and government officials a means to "better assess changes they can make to slow the spread, like reducing density in prison populations or granting early release to people who are deemed to pose low risk to public safety."

Within 48 hours of its launch, 47 US states had downloaded the tool. 

The third award, $20,000, has gone to 3DBrooklyn for the COVID-19 Supplies NYC project. The group is producing roughly 2,000 face shields for key workers, including medical professionals, a week. New York City is one of the hardest-hit areas in the United States by the coronavirus outbreak and so PPE is desperately needed. 

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3DBrooklyn's award will be used to produce more face shields, created through an open source design and with the help of 3D printers.  

The COVID-19 Solutions Fund Awards considers both hardware and software solutions made available under a public license. Independent developer teams, NGOs, and other non-profits -- as well as for-profit hospitals -- can apply. 

The application process has been temporarily closed due to high levels of interest. More awards will be issued over the coming weeks. 

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