Possibilities to tackle Covid-19 outbreak using Technology

The world has witnessed an unprecedented situation in last three months causing major lockdowns, deaths and huge human to human transmission across the globe.

It all started when doctors reported a pneumonia of unknown cause in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province, China. It forced medical authorities to organize an intensive outbreak investigation program to search for the origin and cause of spreading of this virus.

Source: The novel coronavirus | Pixabay

The etiology of this illness remained unknown until it was discovered to be a novel virus belonging to the coronavirus (CoV) family. Word Health Organization later named the disease as “COVID-19.

This new virus is very contagious in nature and has quickly spread 204 countries with majority of countries reporting human-to-human transmission. On January 30, 2020, the outbreak was first declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by WHO and later it was assessed as a Pandemic on March 11, 2020.

 

Source – wiki

The exponential growth in number of cases are staggering touching a tragic milestone of one million infections globally. The United Nations has recently acknowledged its vastness and labeled it an unforeseen event in UN’s 75 Years of existence. Countries and health organization have started collaborating with researchers, technology experts, health experts and mathematicians to find a solution to track, analyse, and find possible way-out from this pandemic.

HOW CAN TECHNOLOGY HELP FIGHT THE PANDEMIC?

In a pandemic at this scale, where the sufferers include world’s most technically and medically fit nations, it becomes imperative to strategize the planning and managements based on technology to help suffering societies from dealing effectively with the outbreak.
Different strategies are being adopted across the globe that can help confronting this pandemic.

Below are the solutions used or potentially being can be used in this fight against COVID-19:

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE & COMPUTER VISION

The AI in healthcare has always been a point of contention with its accuracy and precision in question. But when the disease is enormous, it becomes equally important to fill the void generated due to human limitation with AI embedded diagnostic systems. These systems improves the diagnostic time of the COVID-19.

LinkingMed, a Beijing-based oncology data platform and medical data analysis company developed the system that can diagnose Pneumonia, a common complication of COVID-19 infection in less than sixty seconds with an accuracy as high as 92% and a recall rate of 97% on test data sets.

In India, a Gurgaon based start-up company Staqu has launched an AI powered thermal camera for the detection of covid-19 by examining heat signatures directly through the camera having a range of up to 100 meters. Individuals with fever can be detected, tracked and recognized whether the person is wearing a face mask or not.

DRONES AND AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES

In this time when human to human transmission rate is so high, Governments around the world are enforcing lockdowns and encouraging people to practice social distancing.

The idea is to cut the human to human interaction to flatten the curve of transmission rate. Therefore, to ensure easy implementations of the orders and achieving goals, drones are now becoming essential tools to counter the novel corona virus outbreak.

People are using drones to perform tasks like spraying disinfectants, transporting medical equipment and medical samples. They can cover far more grounds than traditional methods thus, saving time and increasing the speed of delivery. Moreover, they can prevent the risk of medical samples from being contaminated.

They are also flying with QR code placards that can be scanned in order to register health information. They are also alerting people to not step out of their residence and scold them for not wearing face Masks. The government is using speakers on small drones to disperse public gatherings.

To avoid human-to-human contact, autonomous vehicles are delivering necessary goods like medicines and foodstuffs.

BIG DATA ANALYTICS

The uncertainty in concurrence of pandemic has resulted in the propagation of unverified contents on social media platforms.
In this world of information revolution, where anyone reach-out to millions of people within seconds. it becomes important to verify these vast information.

Various organizations have developed dashboards to provide authenticated contents, with visuals and graphs depicting live number of cases in various categories like infected case, recovered cases, ICU cases, deaths and also showing transmission rates. Big data is helping in identifying and analyzing these numbers in huge proportions.

For example, Shanghai a city in china has leveraged big data into diminishing the risk of the coronavirus spreading. Reportedly, people are asked to report their temperature, travel history and location and then it was sent to a big data platform that are being used to manage epidemic prevention.

Shanghai’s cross-department data platform gathers information sent by police, health officials and other government departments and analyse data to alert local community workers to take action if anything warrants it.

Also, a Toronto-based startup BlueDot that uses a platform built around big data, AI, machine learning to track and envisage the outbreak and spread of infectious diseases, alerted its private sector and government clients about a cluster of unusual pneumonia cases happening around a market in Wuhan, China.

SMART PHONES APP

Availability of Smart-phones has prompted the service providers and government authorities to make accessible data directly to common people. Just at the snap of fingers, so much of authentic, verified data is being provided.

On of the strategy that China used to counter covid-19 was by using a mobile software, an application can analyse the current status of a person and tell whether a person should be quarantined or are allowed to travel in public places.
The Chinese government joined hands with tech-giants like ALIBABA and TENCENT to develop a color-coded health rating system that is tracking millions of people everyday.

Citizens have to mandatorily login into the app. This app allocates three colors red, yellow and green based on a person’s travel history and medical data. Those people who have been allocated green color can only travel in public spaces but for that they need to scan the assigned QR code at offices, metro stations, stations. There are crossing points where the code and the person’s body temperature is examined.

Source: wired

Also, with vastness of data, fake news are also being spread easily. So to counter these waves of conspiracy theories, phishing, misinformation and malware, technology giants like Google and Facebook have started providing an alert sign coupled with links to verified sources of information whenever a search for coronavirus/COVID-19 happens. YouTube, on the other hand, directly links users to the WHO and similar credible organizations for information. Videos that misinform are scoured for and taken down as soon as they are uploaded. Smart-phone manufacturers have also designed widgets directly in the phone especially for this purpose.

ROBOTICS

Robotics has always been a ray of hope for humanity with its robust and versatile performance in assisting humans in their works. Some countries did develop robots for easing their manufacturing processes.

In these difficult times, when locking people down in their homes only seems to be a solution to cut transmission between humans, robots can be new front-line warriors to prevent the spread of corona virus.

Tech companies like Jd.com and others have made it possible to deliver medical supplements and other necessary stuffs using robots as they are immune to infections.

UVD Robots is a danish company which is making robots to disinfect operating theatre and also patients room. UVD robots emits ultraviolet lights that can kill viruses and bacteria’s and can help in minimizing the spread of covid-19.

The world has witnessed situations that was no one ever thought of few years back. We the thinking creatures of planet earth have expanded and evolved ourselves into wonderful forms, but advancement of technology has and will always remain our only way to move forward in future.

Concluding Statements

If we can combine the strengths of technologies, we are more than powerful to respond sensibly to these kinds of situation and save us some hope.
The present scenario is not reflective of our achievements as a humanity and world must acknowledge that. We did everything to protect ourselves from human created disasters but not from natural disasters, however the nature is unpredictable as every year, we suffer losses from cyclones, earthquakes, floods and we have no option but to face all those phenomena.
This disease falls in that category too but with a twist that it can be avoidable. We have had several epidemics in past and we have handled those. But this pandemic is an eye opener for humanity.
We have not only failed to minimize its effect but also couldn’t stop it’s spreading. This is a very sensitive situation for all of humanity as we are witnessing things that are limiting our abilities. We must take this opportunity as a way forward and should come out with flying colours.
Technology has taught the public health officials across the globe one thing that there are now tools available to help confront a virulent disease rather than vigorous measures like quarantine and curfews. Paying more emphasis over new technologies can counter the future outbreaks. This pandemic has created tremendous opportunities on the other end of the spectrum how to mitigate problems and hopefully the use of technology and data analytics can lead us light-years ahead of where we are today.

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