Since the start of 2020, scientists from across the world have been deliberating how to beat the Coronavirus. The heroes on the front line are doctors, biologists, and chemists. But software developers, data scientists, AI specialists, and a whole host of IT experts are fighting behind the scenes — and they may just have a critical role to play if we’re to defeat this pandemic. How so? Read on, and we’ll show you.
Nowadays, most people believe in the power of technology. But have you considered if domains such as AI, data science, or machine learning can help us in the fight against Coronavirus? In this article, we’ll show you a few key examples that highlight precisely how these technologies can help us avoid infection and keep the global population safe.
Tracking and predicting the path of the infection outbreaks
Today, advanced AI algorithms can intercept, read, and analyze huge datasets to uncover potential epidemics. One example is BlueDot: software that tracks, locates, contextualizes and anticipates the spread of infectious disease. Solutions like BlueDot help doctors identify where to perform tests; they can help eradicate the epidemic and save thousands of lives.
But here’s where the story gets interesting. BlueDot warned of the risk of an epidemic several days before the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published their warnings. And as we’ve learned, in the case of a virus, time plays an essential role in containment.
Meaning the quicker we can detect it, the more effectively we can fight it. And thanks to technology, in the case of Coronavirus, health authorities can now react extremely fast — at least, in comparison to previous outbreaks of disease.
Six solutions to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic
The pandemic brings with it a host of challenges. However, if we implement the right technologies, we can tackle each one and contain, even eradicate, the virus. Here’s a selection of tools every nation could use in the fight.
AI-powered smart glasses
One of the main symptoms of Coronavirus is a fever. That’s why the Chinese police have been equipped with AI-powered smart glasses — made by Chinese technology start-up Rokid — that allow them to measure the temperature of the general population from a distance of up to one meter in seconds.
The smart glasses let authorities monitor the temperature of several hundred people in just two minutes. And the use of smart wearables has rapidly become widespread.
Security staff at Hongyuan Park in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou started to wear them daily. Now, hospitals, airports, and other highly-trafficked locations use these devices to monitor customers, staff, and patients for any sign of a raised temperature.
General advice is to work from where you can. However, not everyone can work remotely. Think of employees in hospitals, doctor’s clinics, banks, shops, stations, the list goes on. These are roles with frequent human contact, none more so than employees at a reception desk. So, another way to reduce the risk of infection is to replace human receptionists with robots. Sounds far fetched? Think again.
The Polish company Weegree has already installed a ‘robo-receptionist’ in its office. This is the first contact anyone has when they enter the Weegree building. And before the robot allows a visitor to enter the workspace, it asks first to measure body temperature and sanitize hands, before requesting the visitor puts on a protective mask.
In making sure no-one has a fever, the company has significantly reduced the risk of a carrier of the virus from infecting employees.
Smart city monitoring
During an epidemic, we must avoid crowded spaces. But how can AI help us do this? Well, using a solution like the Visual Crowd Detector: an artificially-intelligent algorithm, developed by polish company Tooploox, which highlights where people are gathering.
Visual Crowd Detector is the result of a project called HackTheCrisis: a hackathon dedicated to devising solutions that help solve COVID-19-related problems. This particular solution is already active in Gdynia, a city in northern Poland. And it’s detecting crowds and alerting authorities to places requiring disinfection by identifying groups from images.
And what if you have to head out and want to check where’s busy so that you can avoid the spot? Do what the smart folk do: check the map from Socialdistancing.app — a website showing places that are currently crowded.
Tracking and diagnostics
If we’re to defeat the virus, we need to track who’s infected. A company leading the charge on testing and diagnostics is Infervision. It has created an AI-based solution that helps front-line clinicians detect and monitor the disease more effectively. Infervision’s solution was first used at Tongji Hospital in Wuhan — the source of the outbreak — before other cities in China adopted the technology.
Chinese eCommerce behemoth Alibaba has also developed similar software. And what’s compelling about their system is that it can diagnose the virus in seconds — with a 96% accuracy rating.
Prediction software for ventilator need
Ventilators are the critical piece of equipment in the fight against Coronavirus. But how can we know which countries need them most at any given time? Thankfully, computer scientists at the University of Copenhagen have developed a computer model — using artificial intelligence — to determine the probability a patient will need a respirator; or treatment in intensive care.
The algorithms use data from patients who have already had treatment. They analyze details like chest X-rays and the results of medical examinations. Mads Nielsen, head of the IT department at Copenhagen University, believes the software can predict how many hospitalized patients will need a ventilator within the next 24 hours.
Now, two medical institutions are helping encourage the use of the solution: hospitals in Rigshospitalet and Bispebjerg.
A WHO chatbot
Everyone wants to know what’s going on with the Coronavirus. But how can we access the most reliable news? Now, it’s easy. Whatsapp recently launched a chatbot in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), offering a system that provides the latest reports and numbers in real-time.
It only shares confirmed data from trusted sources. Moreover, it includes lots of details on symptoms to look out for and precautions to take.
And a few ideas from DLabs
We’ve covered six examples, but they’re just a drop in the ocean of possibility. As big data and technology obsessives, our team has spent time discussing (and trying to develop) new technologies that can help in the fight against COVID-19.
Interested to hear what we’ve come up with? Here’s a selection of our ideas:
- An app to queue patients based on symptoms: to help clinicians prioritize care for those with the most severe illness.
- An app that calculates how many people can enter a room: as countries relax measures, shops and banks still need to keep social distancing in place — an app could limit how many people enter a building based on the floor space and a visitor counter.
- Computer vision recognizing infected patients: for use in hospitals, but also in high-risk environments, like shops and pharmacies.
- A filter that flags fake news: the wrong information makes the situation worse, a filter could flag false rumors and avoid dissemination of fake or misleading news.
- A Polish-language chatbot: the WHO offers a global chatbot, how about one in Polish offering the latest numbers and advice from the Polish government?
There really are no limits. If you have an idea of how AI can help the world beat COVID-19, comment on our social media, and let’s get to work!