The coronavirus outbreak has led to country lockdowns, shutting of borders, school closures, restaurants shutdowns, and cancellation of events. In this blog, we zoom in on some examples of how technology can help to better live and cope with the situation during a pandemic. Below we will list some examples of such technologies. E.g. contactless delivery, spraying disinfectants and performing basic diagnostic functions, in order to minimize the risk of cross-infection.
Canadian startup BlueDot used AI and machine learning to detect the coronavirus. Its AI algorithm analyzed multiple sources such as news reports, social media platforms and government documents to predict the outbreak.
The spread of the virus is mainly a “human” process - directly related to human proximity and contact. However, autonomous technologies can be deployed to help fight the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak. Companies have taken all kinds of initiatives to bring live back to normal.
Artificial intelligence that can scan thousands of medical images in a flash helps developing vaccines. Governments are encouraging universities and corporations to expedite innovations to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Help with diagnosis
Advanced AI has been used to help diagnose the disease and accelerate the development of a vaccine. Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, claims its new AI-powered diagnosis system can identify coronavirus infections with 96% accuracy in less than 20 seconds. AI developer Infervision launched a coronavirus artificial intelligence solution, this past month, that is tailored for front-line use to help clinicians detect and monitor the disease more effectively. The outbreak has put significant pressure on imaging departments, which are now reading over a thousand cases a day. Patients and clinicians typically wait a few hours to get the CT results, but Infervision AI is improving the CT diagnosis speed. The surging number of patients needing diagnosis and the strict laboratory requirements for the use of the rRT-PCR detection kit, to confirm the 2019-nCoV diagnosis, pose big challenges to regional and rural hospitals. Baidu has open-sourced its RNA prediction algorithm LinearFold to help researchers accelerate the time taken to predict the virus’s RNA secondary structure from 55 minutes to 27 seconds.
Tests and Big Data
Koreans are leading the technological front, utilizing big-data analysis, AI-powered advance warning systems, and intensive observation methodology. South Korea has already managed to bring the coronavirus situation in the country under control in a short time. South Korea has tested more than 140,000 people for the new coronavirus and confirmed more than 9,000 cases. Its fatality rate is around 0.6%. The country was prepared due to previous SARS outbreak and could test many, many people Thanks to this active testing.
Hospitals, ambulance services, and mobile test labs all rely on technology to deliver prompt and efficient services. South Korea also introduced drive-through coronavirus testing, where a person drives his car inside a mobile testing lab, get his samples collected while sitting inside the vehicle, and gets the test results within a few minutes. If found to be infected, they are immediately isolated and taken to specialized treatment facilities.
AI data analysis informs government about possible clusters of the virus, or areas with most risk, thus enabling prompt medical services and mobilizing awareness initiatives in those areas.
Sterilization robots cleaning the quarantine wards
Autonomous vehicles can support critical tasks like the of robots to disinfect hospitals and deliver medical supplies. AI analyzing position data enabling detailed mapping of the outbreak, while authorities are tracking potential carriers using mobile technology.
Autonomous sterilization robots are helping hospitals to contain the infections in quarantined wards by easily moving into a quarantined zone to sterilize virus without human intervention. Medical robot developer TMiRob deployed 10 disinfection robots across major hospitals in Wuhan to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Autonomous delivery for supplies
Drones are gaining popularity as the fastest and safest means to transport supplies during disease outbreaks. Singapore’s AI startup Antwork has launched the first ‘urban air transportation channel’ to deliver medical supplies between Xinchang County People’s Hospital and the county’s disease control center, both located in Zhejiang, one of the most severely coronavirus hit provinces.
Pudu Technology, which makes robots for the catering industry, has reportedly installed its machines in more than 40 hospitals around the country to help medical staff. MicroMultiCopter is deploying drones to transport medical samples and conduct thermal imaging.
In the US, people understand that autonomous vehicles support better social distancing, however sterilizing the vehicle is still not autonomous yet. Companies like Waymo, Yandex, etc. that build fleets of autonomous vehicles are developing solutions for general maintenance, cleaning and sterilization of the vehicle. They do this by keeping strict cleaning schedules and maintenance checks, along with already existing technologies like in-cabin monitoring solutions. Human mobility in-itself must be limited in an epidemic situation.
The grocery orders were 10 times higher than usual, 20 times higher in places like California and New York for companies like Instacart. Its grocery delivery service - valued as high as $8 billion by investors overnight - is not being able to deal with the demand created and facing the issue of hiring too many contractors. Robot delivery companies, like Starship Technologies, have expand to deliver orders from restaurants, lowering the risk of infection by human delivery. KiwiBot’s delivery robots are autonomously delivering essential sanitary supplies, masks, antibacterial gels and hygiene products.
It might be some time before the world can go completely back to normal, but AI and autonomous technology can help us combatting the effects of (future) epidemics.