The spread of coronavirus shows no sign of ending soon.
Many countries have been affected by the virus but at the moment, there is no vaccine to treat it. As Coronavirus continues to spread, the most important task is to contain the outbreak as much as possible.
Amidst the global pandemic, technology can be used to help and save lives.
How can technology and AI (artificial intelligence) help people in the fight against COVID19?
AI to Track Coronavirus Outbreaks
AI (Artificial Intelligence) can help us to track Coronavirus outbreaks.
Today, we can track data via the live dashboard – it pulls data from the World Health Organization (WHO) to better locate possible outbreaks and provide safety measures to minimize the spread.
A Canadian health monitoring company BlueDot uses AI to scrap foreign news reports, forums and announcements from public health officials to protect people around the world from infectious diseases. BlueDot’s early-warn system uses AI (ML or Machine Learning and NLP or Natural Language Processing) to track and analyze data which helps them to understand when to notify about the spread.
Speed matters the most in a pandemic situation and AI can spot the outbreaks quickly and intervene to keep them to a minimum. AI surveillance uses tons of posts about Coronavirus to get more accurate data and predict how fast the outbreaks may be.
More and more countries have started deploying AI surveillance to monitor and track citizens to achieve a wide range of purposes. Although it raises serious questions about the future of privacy, AI surveillance has proven a useful tool to monitor and respond to the global outbreak such as Coronavirus.
AI and Wearables to Track People
Some countries, like China, use AI and ML based tools to detect Coronavirus cases – not only detect but also to track people that have been put to quarantine or self-isolation.
Face recognition can help with detecting people’s faces, especially with people who have been diagnosed with the virus and if, in any case, cannot be located.
Many applications have also been developed to help people track if they’ve been in places as the confirmed virus patients.
Wearable technology is another great way that may help to fight the virus – it enables healthcare professionals to monitor vital signs with patients without physical contact.
Some hospitals in China have used a continuous temperature sensor to help reduce the spread of the virus – the sensor is applied to the patient and sends real-time information to the health institution.
Wearables have proven beneficial and can be used to monitor heart and respiratory rates among patients.
Drones’ assistance have become essential in minimizing the spread – people use drones to carry out tasks like spraying disinfectant, dispersing public gatherings or tracking people in quarantine.
Usually lighter drones are used for detection and monitoring while some types of drones can also be used for food and face masks delivery which helps prevent the virus spread.
Drones can be upgraded for Aerial Thermography – usage of drones equipped with thermal camera scanners to detect temperatures of people in a crowd where they can identify persons with the highest body temperature.
Robots and Tech Tools for Contactless Communication
Robots have become more important than ever during the pandemic outbreak as it’s extremely difficult for medical staff to remain safe while providing treatment to patients.
Shortage of medical workers has become a top problem as they are in direct contact with the patients and can get infected by the virus.
Using robots can minimize the exposure of medical staff to the infected patients – the fewer people in contact with infected patients, the better.
Robots can help perform tasks such as delivering food and medicines and cleaning the patients’ rooms enabling contactless assistance and preventing further spread.
Healthcare applications can provide real-time consultations – patients that suffer from symptoms similar to Coronavirus can consult a doctor via a video call instead of coming into close contact with patients.
Virtual consultations can provide doctors with a person’s current state along with healthcare data like blood pressure, heart rate, etc.
In China, Ecommerce giants have gone further and deployed robots to deliver food to prevent the spread of the virus. Contactless delivery systems try to minimize the human contact resulting in decreased spread of the virus itself. Autonomous vehicles can carry up to 100kg of goods and deliver 3-4 rounds per trip.
Self-driving robots can be used for disinfection of hospitals, for example, UVD robots release concentrated UV-C light which has a germicidal effect and can kill bacteria and airborne viruses on the surface.
One of the most popular robotic ‘disinfectants’ is developed by Blue Ocean Robotics that uses ultraviolet light to kill viruses and germs.
Thermal Imaging Cameras to Detect Temperature
Although Coronavirus is a current danger, people still need to work and travel if necessary.
Many thermal screening cameras have been installed at airports across many countries – they use thermal imaging equipment to detect a person’s body temperature if above normal range and react accordingly without spreading panic.
Thermal cameras create images using infrared radiation – the heat sensors record the heat of people’s bodies and display 2D images with temperature levels.
Thermal sensors can scan the large crowd of people and instantly pinpoint the ones with high temperatures or fever as opposed to checking everyone’s temperature and creating massive delays.
As already mentioned, another great usage of thermal cameras is called Aerial Thermography which includes an unmanned aerial device (drone) and an infrared camera scanning.
Drones show higher safety levels as they can complete the task with less or no contact and they can be obtained at affordable costs.
Such data can be sent to health institutions so that the treatments can start immediately and have the biggest effect.
AI to Help Develop Medicine
Coronavirus is similar to EBola and SARS as they’re RNA viruses which means they are responsive to mutation and more complex to develop vaccines.
Many companies have already deployed their resources in attempts to develop medicines – Google’s DeepMind has used its AlphaFold system to release structure predictions associated with the virus. Although these haven’t been experimentally proven, they hope it will lead to better understanding how the virus functions.
Baidu Research has opened its LinearFold algorithm for free to the scientific community and epidemic prevention centres so that all research on Covid19 structure can be continuously expedited – the algorithm takes only 27 seconds to recognize and solve the RNA structure of Covid19 which is over 100 times faster than classic algorithms.
The most important thing for these algorithms is access to data so it’s vital to release all details crucial for any algorithm searching for a cure.
Tech Tools Provide Online Education Programs
Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, many schools and universities are closed while schooling is organized via online education programs.
Simple technology tools and apps enable many educational institutions to organize pre-recorded classes or live streaming where teachers can hold their classes with help of a whiteboard or PowerPoint presentation thus continuing the school year.
In Serbia, school and university programs have been adopted via national TV channels or digital channels so that it is accessible to everyone.
A great number of online teaching and educational platforms also provide their services for free during the outbreak helping students not to be so much affected by Coronavirus.
The crisis evoked by Coronavirus triggered an increased demand for online education, courses and content.
AI to Fight Fake Information
Global pandemic affected the world population and it’s been noticed that some social media networks started posting misleading content related to Coronavirus and its prevention – from the origin of the virus to various claims about miracle cures.
Spreading panic in a pandemic situation is extremely dangerous and an increased number of fake news can just make the situation worse.
AI can be used to analyze words or word patterns to try to spotlight fake stories.
For example, Facebook uses AI to address the issue by quickly learning behaviour through pattern recognition – power of AI can detect false stories on the Internet with great accuracy.
That is the reason why the biggest internet and social media companies put extra effort to detect fake information and filter information that can be sent over their networks.
AI to Help Production of Face Masks
As the Coronavirus outbreak rapidly spread in some countries, lack of medical equipment has become a common issue within many health institutions worldwide.
Lack of masks, gloves, protective scrubs etc. is a huge problem and we need to address it if we intend to keep our medical workers healthy and minimize the spread of virus with those who are the first in the frontline.
One of the companies that contribute to the issue of shortage of medical products is Sonovia, an Israeli startup that works on producing fabrics that will be immune to the virus until we develop vaccines. The most important thing is that they use technology that can cover fabrics with antivirus without using any chemicals.
In Serbia, a Facebook group ‘Vizionari Srbije’ was established on 20 March 2020 by a group of enthusiasts with a goal to help their citizens at risk of getting infected by Coronavirus. The first project was to create 3D printed safety face visors to protect healthcare professionals and medical staff from direct transmission of the virus. The project achieved a huge response – the group created visors for more than 22.000 people and still counting.
As the Coronavirus crisis is growing, we can see how some of the technologies can be helpful in the fight against infectious diseases in the future.
Technology can be our ally and help save lives, but let us not forget that humanity and solidarity among people enable the same technology to show its full potential and keep us together during the outbreak.
I believe technology still needs time before being able to stop such disease outbreaks so we need to invest in it proactively. The human experts and technology are the best combination for the future times.