Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the gravest threats human kind has ever faced. Every passing minute is shrouded with despair and uncertainty. What started in Wuhan, China has now spun its webs across all parts of the globe, disarming thousands of individual ambitions and businesses. The world economy is slowly falling apart, and so is the resilience of the people.
In the wake of a global emergency, the brightest minds in the world have put their heads together to pioneer innovative solutions with the use of technologies to monitor and limit the spread of the deadly virus. But the real question is, can technology help fight the pandemic COVID-19?
As rightly said by Sir Arthur C. Clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic”, here are some of the brilliant ways technology is being used by the various sections of the professionals including, doctors, engineers and developers to put up a brave fight against the global crisis:
1. AI to Detect Pandemic Spread
Artificial Intelligence is taking over the world and with the help of high-quality data; it can turn out to be a powerful tool when it comes to foreseeing the future of the disease all the while searching for potential treatment.
Toronto based health monitoring Artificial Intelligence platform called BlueDot, which scans data from thousands of sources, noticed a cluster of pneumonia-like illness in Wuhan, China and proved to be one step ahead of WHO and CDC while issuing warnings about the pandemic COVID-19 spread. Moreover, it was able to correctly predict the path of the virus spread from Wuhan to Tokyo.
When it comesto using Big Data & AI to fight Coronavirus, researchers and practicing physicians are trying to learn more about how to control the spread and treat it. With the abundance of data available worldwide, AI can help professionals leaf through that information to identify the most relevant data to form better and faster decisions. AI powered tools like AliveCor and CLEW, are being utilised to detect the signals that anticipate heart attack and respiratory weakening respectively.
2. Robots to The Rescue
One of the foremost known facts about Coronavirus is that it spreads through human-to-human contact, thus putting the medical staff at risk of contracting the disease. Thanks to medical robots, the threat to the lives of health workers has been minimized to a certain degree.
Although still a relatively new concept, a quadruped Spot robot is already in use at one of the hospitals at Boston to help with Coronavirus treatment. The robot allows physicians to converse with the patient via a screen and it is also endowed with a stethoscope, enabling doctors to take the man’s vitals all the while restricting exposure to the staff.
With the use of a mobile robot, hospitals are able to decrease the number of the required medical staff at the scene and preserve their limited PPE (personal protective equipment) supply. In the US, one patient in the State of Washington is being treated by a robot named Vici, through which he communicates with his care team.
Robots are also being stationed to take care of patients residing in the isolated wards. In China, a small robot called “Little Peanut” is being used to transport food and medicines to the passengers of a flight from Singapore to Hangzhou, China, that are now staying at a hotel in quarantine.
3. Maps for Monitoring
The Center for Systems and Engineering (CSSE) at John Hopkins was able to create an online dashboard which can help in visualizing and tracking the reported cases on a daily basis. Along with it, they have also developed a full set of downloadable Google Sheet.
An example of one such interactive map to monitor the COVID-19 cases was developed in the US by the website called covidvisualizer.com. IT has the ability to provide users with the option of clicking on a country or region of their interest to see the number of cases, deaths and recoveries.
The data they use to envisage is gathered from several different sources like WHO, CDC, China CDC, NHC and DXY, a website that accumulates local CCDC and NHC reports in real-time.
The data for the US is obtained from the U.S. CDC, and for other countries the case information is acquired from the respective regional health departments, making the final dashboard extremely informative for people that wish to gain deep insight about the scenario.
4. Smartphone Apps
When it comes to pandemic COVID-19, smartphone apps are playing a huge role in the quest of flattening the curve. These apps are equipped to track infected individuals, issue self-quarantine guidelines, provide the latest communication to the common masses and relieve health care staff from some of the burdens.
Experts have come a long way to understand which technology is best suited for pandemic management. Using apps in the COVID-19 milieu is useful to the common masses to help people to report their symptoms and to gain knowledge about the virus and the health response. Apps are now being surveyed to trace contacts through interaction and proximity analysis. From South Korea to Poland, millions of people have downloaded these apps so far.
Apps like CovidWatch, developed in collaboration with Standform University, uses Bluetooth signals to perceive if somebody who has tested positive is in the proximity and sends alerts. This empowers people to protect themselves and their society without having to give up their privacy.
Another app that has so far gained immense popularity is AgorgyaSetu app which has been downloaded by more than 50 million users within 13 days of its launch. Developed by the Indian Ministry of Electronics and IT, this app features a distinguishable self-testing function through which its users can answer the basic questions pertaining to Novel Coronavirus symptoms. In case the app identifies somebody with the virus, the data goes directly to the government servers and appropriate actions are taken further.
In the battle against Coronavirus, drones are becoming some of the most powerful tools used by the government of various countries. From walkways with loudspeakers to alerting residents to stay at home and wear masks, drones are ensuring a seamless flow of information between the citizens and the authorities.
There are a number of ways in which drones playing a vital role in the war against this invisible enemy:
Coronavirus, being a highly contagious disease, is compelling the government to take drastic measures in order to ensure minimum to no human-to-human contact. Authorities round the globe are banning gatherings and limiting any sort of human-to-human interaction. Drones are being used to observe the people and alert the authorities to the violation of any such ban. Through drones, the government makes sure that the instructions given by them are followed, at the same time avoiding any risk to the health of frontline officer.
2. Disinfectant Spraying:
Simple to operate, inexpensive and easily mobilized, drones are being used by health authorities to carry out tasks like spraying disinfectants. These spraying drones are loaded with disinfectants and can cover an area almost 50 times quicker than any tradition methods. Along with China, other countries such as India, Philippines, Indonesia, Chile, Columbia, Chile and UAE have made use of drones to manage the spread of virus. Recently, Spain has become the first country in Europe to employ agricultural drones for disinfecting vast public areas.
3. Medicine and Groceries Delivery:
Deliveries through autonomous vehicles, drones and robots are slowly becoming the norm. With doctors and hospitals requiring medical supplies and laboratory testing more than ever, drones are emerging to be the safest and fastest route that could be taken for the delivery of medical supplies and lab samples. In some parts of China, Australia and the US, apart from delivering medical supplies, drones are being used for grocery supplies as well. In the US, Alphabet Inc.’s Wing has seen an exponential growth in the number of drone deliveries in Christiansburg, Virginia after the outbreak. They turned out to be particularly useful in red zones where outside physical contact should be negligible.
6. 3D Printers for Easy Breathing
Every passing day of this pandemic is adding more and more patients to the list, which translates to a worldwide shortage of medical equipments. Ventilators being one of the mandatory equipments when it comes to providing treatment for the most severe cases are facing a lack of supply.
In a situation like this, different groups of people around the globe, with the help of technology like Telegram (cloud-based instant messaging and voice over IP service) have set up network interaction platforms and channels. This way, individuals can share information related to open-source design for producing ventilators using 3D printers.
Any individual who has an access to a 3D printer can contribute; the main agenda is to make them available as soon as possible to the medical staff. Fortunately, this project is said to yield quick and efficient results with a cost-effective approach.
In Spain, one group successfully created an open-source respirator prototype which was tested on a pig at Central University Hospital of Asturias. Due to the successful testing, the group members have garnered a lot of support and are said to be collaborating for human testing of the same.
With the lack of direct interactions due to the lockdown, companies are finding it extremely difficult to maintain a steady communication with the customers. To help eliminate this particular challenge, various organizations are choosing the Chatbot route.
Chatbots have proven to be extremely useful when it comes to spreading awareness about the virus and to also assist with customer queries. Some of the chatbots that have gained popularity amongst the people include the WHO chatbot and Microsoft Azure.
The World Health Organisation’s WHO chatbot has a simplistic approach with users having to send numbers or emojis to extract information related to different topics. Operating on WhatsApp platform, WHO chatbot answers generic questions related to sickness.
Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services on the other hand can be utilized by large companies and healthcare organizations to create enterprise-grade bots (Microsoft Healthcare bot) with the ability to converse, comprehend and listen. A few health care organizations such as Copenhagen Emergency Medical Services have already started using Microsoft’s tech to automatically solve people’s queries regarding COVID-19 symptoms, along with virtually screening patients before inviting them in for personal checkups.
The pandemic has now transformed into a global calamity, causing a state of economic emergency. Dealing with a global pandemic is petrifying, but technology comes as a beacon of light in such a dark time. The latest forms of technologies like AI, and Data Science along with the increased awareness of the environment around us promises a hope that containment and eventual treatment of outbreaks are achievable. After all, modern problems call for modern solutions.