Smart Technologies Manoeuvring the Fight Against Pandemics: COVID-19

By Ragini and Anupreet, Published on: 15th May 2020

COVID-19 is unlike any other past crisis for humanity as it is disrupting the entire world at large. Governments across nations are trying to ensure the safety of their citizens and provide essential support to the affected. Despite the rapid and vast spread, people all over the world are putting up high spirits, a brave fight, using the best of their knowledge and new-age technologies to manoeuvre this new pandemic situation. These latest and smart technologies are not only helping us fight COVID-19 but may in the future, change how we deal with such pandemics.

Technology cannot prevent the inception of the pandemics; however, it can help prevent the spread, warn, educate, and empower people to be aware and vigilant of the situation, and noticeably lessen the impact. Therefore, technological solutions that allow for contactless functioning are getting attention and gaining prominence in the time of social isolation and lockdowns.

Trending smart technologies such as machine learning, big data, and artificial intelligence has been a saviour in controlling and mitigating the spread of coronavirus. While the experts are struggling to develop a vaccine, many countries have followed China in leveraging the use of emerging technologies to detect infected people in the widespread outbreak.

China was the country where this pandemic originated and one of the first ones to utilize technology to combat such crises. From location tracking, dissemination of relevant facts, area sanitization, delivery of medical supplies, screening of people, to the treatment of infected, the technology-driven approach has resulted in a positive outcome in dealing with the pandemic.

Dual Approach Adopted by the World 

Based on an analysis of various academic papers, WHO reports, and newspapers, two opposing approaches are being followed in the world. While the Chinese government and cities have adopted a techno-driven approach, the Western governments have adopted a human-driven strategy to control the transmission and spread of Covid-19.

The techno-driven approach seeks adoption of smart technologies, largely pushed into cities by using the top-down approach, the human-driven approach encourages cities to educate their citizens and enhance their social and human capital that would help develop and adopt smart technologies.

While South Eastern countries are largely focussed on identifying those who are infected, Western democracies, on the other hand, are following human-driven approach, comprising collection of anonymous data, ensuring lockdowns, and quarantine.

Some of the top approaches for controlling virus transmissions during pandemics include:

  • Fighting misinformation
  • Finding Drugs
  • Increasing transparency and traceability by sharing data
  • Tracking people with facial recognition and big data
  • Using Big Data & Artificial Intelligence to fight the Coronavirus
  • Contact-less movement and deliveries through autonomous vehicles, drones, and robots
  • Technology supported temperature monitoring
  • Remote working technologies to support social distancing and maintain business continuity

Ensuring Digital Surveillance

Countries like South Korea, Singapore, Israel, and the UK have paced up in curbing the spread. Tracing the location of people through mobile applications has been a significant approach to map the location of an infected person and alert users as they come close to an infected person.

Analytics derived using artificial intelligence and big data are critical in assessing the healthcare scenario. The accurate forecasts and insights derived help in analyzing the current situation and taking precautionary measures. South-east countries like Singapore are proving how new-age technologies can change the way of dealing with such pandemics.

As a part of the digital surveillance system in various countries, a consolidated database citing a person’s location, travel history, and temperature has been created. Machine learning and big data are being used to scan people for immediate detection of suspected patients. The CCTV footage having a face recognition feature is also being used for contact tracing in South Korea and Singapore.

Robots and Drones Takes the Steer with AI Diagnosis

Most advanced countries are using robots and drones in such critical times. Robots have been deployed in hospitals to monitor the patient’s health and provide food and medicine. Both China and Singapore have used robots to remotely disinfect areas in hospitals, and deliver food and medical supplies to health caretakers.

Drones are another add-on in quick scanning of areas having large gatherings. Thermal imaging drones have been deployed by countries to identify people suffering from fever even in crowded places such as a railway station. Considering the risk to healthcare professionals, autonomous vehicles or self-driven cars have been the next convenient choice to avoid human contact and deliver the required supplies.

Coronavirus is being diagnosed using artificial intelligence, which can read thousands of CT scans in less than 20 seconds with an accuracy of 96%.

Apps for Mobile

Various applications have been developed in different counties to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, South Korea has developed an app to monitor quarantine people and their symptoms.

Some countries have developed an app with colour codes – green, yellow, and red – to show risk zones.

In India, the government has created various apps to deliver essential services and gather information on their health to map the worst affected areas. Various videos and updates related to COVID-19 are being daily circulated to make citizens aware.

Technology Showing the Way Forward

During a global pandemic, technological tools have become key sources for monitoring and controlling disease outbreaks effectively. Especially when containment is a challenge, technology can not only operate as near-stand-ins for medical and healthcare staff, but it can also match the speed and scale at which the current pandemic requires treatment.

Whether it is accurate and faster surveillance tools, diagnostics, or the distribution of medical countermeasures such as 3D printing of chemicals and biologics, there is a range of technologies that have the potential to strengthen and help prevent our capacity to respond to outbreaks and reduce the risk of global catastrophic biological events. 

Technology has been a rescuer. But can technology stop such pandemics? Well, the answer is obvious and governments and people across the world are trying to build a robust system to prevent and prepare the world from future pandemics.

The extensive use of technology in fighting this pandemic, also poses a huge threat of the spread and misuse of confidential information of people, raising concerns about cybersecurity. Stay tuned for the next blog highlighting and covering these issues. Happy Reading!

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