How Technology is helping battle Covid-19
With the alarming impact of COVID-19 since January 2020, WHO has declared it as a Public Health Emergency Of International Concern. Considering its rapid transmission rate among the masses, it has been given the status of a global pandemic. With the consecutive waves of the pandemic taking on the world, WHO has been advising the only best possible way to tackle the issue is testing and effective treatment, coupled with a large-scale vaccination program.In crucial times like this where information and assistance are of prime importance, technology has been a balancing beam keeping things in place.
Although it cannot stop the pandemic, it can help prevent the spread, educate, warn, and empower those on the ground to be aware of the situation, and noticeably lessen the impact. AI and data-driven applications have assisted the development of frameworks to amplify the detection, tracking, and data analysis which has an important effect in mitigating the spread of the virus. Global researchers are also constantly exploring new ways to develop point-of-care services to enable rapid testing and considerable relief from the symptoms which might otherwise prove lethal. Few of the technological fronts helping battle the pandemic are-
Artificial Intelligence and Big Data
Big Data and AI have helped hospitals and organizations equip and stay well-prepared for the consecutive waves and the tracking of people thereby the spread of infection. Due to this, many countries are leveraging AI to monitor various aspects of the pandemic as well as keep the organizations well-informed.
AI and data sciences have proven to be very crucial in pandemic situations in recent times. Google has used the AI algorithm of its division “Deep Mind” to decode the proteins and the genetics of the COVID-19 virus. ‘Benevolent AI’ has been using AI models to develop drugs that can cure the most challenging diseases and even putting efforts to medicate COVID-19. Even during the initial stages of the pandemic, it has suggested drugs that might have been useful in curing the infection. Several supercomputers and cloud computing resources have also played the most important role in finding the vaccine for the virus. These systems have helped run the calculations and analyses at a much higher pace compared to a human potential thereby enabling the production of vaccines within months instead of years.
Since the commencement of the pandemic, both private as well as government organizations have developed several mobile applications as a means of keeping the people informed as well as tracking and mitigating the spread. Worldwide governments and agencies are relying on smartphone Apps to provide information regarding the pandemic, monitor quarantine of people, and provision of healthcare services to the needy.
Modeling method of COVID – 19
China has adopted a deep learning-based auto-encoder to monitor the real-time COVID cases in the infected region. They even launched a satellite named “α-Satellite” to predict the spread among the infested areas. Various immediate indicators like infections, deaths, recoveries etc are collected real-time and various models are drafted to analyze the threat of the infection. Maghdid proposed a framework wherein the AI-enabled protocol analyses the smartphone sensor data to predict the severity of the infection.
Recently, a joint venture between India and Japan aims to hasten the human health sector with a novel innovation in smart technology. This will focus on developing an efficient system, robotics, AI, and blockchain technologies to deal with the challenge of health systems. The Canadian startup ‘BlueDot’ has developed an AI enable framework that precisely perceives the risk of the infection and level of hazard in a demographic region. The healthcare analytics and solution corporation ‘Cotiviti’ is now using AI and fitness data to predict future coronavirus hot spots around the USA To forecast the possible infection hubs, an AI model capable of analyzing the data based on Susceptible-Infected-Recovered-Dead (SIRD) protocol was deployed in China.
Healthcare Technology like X-RAY and CT Scan
X-RAY and CT Scan have played a crucial role in imaging the patients’ internal conditions thereby helping analyze the severity or the lethality of the infection. This coupled with the AI has increased the potential to quickly analyze the images and generate much quicker reports depending on the existing conditions. This would have, on the other hand, if manually undertaken by the staff would have required them to visually analyze each and every image and then generate a report which would not only have taken an inexplicable amount of time owing to the continuous influx of the patients affected from COVID-19 but also would’ve cost the organisations lot of potential opportunity cost in terms of attending the patients dire need of supervision or analyzing the reports.
Alibaba has built an AI analysis machine that has an accuracy of around 96% in identifying an infected person. Similarly, a lot of other companies have built various AI and healthcare-based technologies to measure indicators like monitor radio-graphic deviation, CAD4COVID screening platform built for screening of COVID-19, etc.
With breathing and respiratory droplets one of the major sources of infection of the coronavirus, governments have urged people to resort to using face masks all the time stepping out of their homes. While surgical masks prove effective in containing the normal-sized respiratory droplets, they have found to be ineffective against submicron droplets much smaller and penetrable through the pores present in the mask. This led to the popularized use of N-95 masks which could prevent the spread of respiratory deposits of any level. With the increased use of these masks, a global shortage is a well-expected scenario. Therefore companies are now focusing their research to generate more efficient masks to battle the shortage.
Schwartz adopted hydrogen peroxide vapor exposure as a method to decontaminate N95 masks and powered-air purifying respirators (PAPRs) masks. The study revealed that even after 50 cycles of disinfection, the N95 respirators retain their filtering capability. Scientists have also developed a self disinfecting mask that can provide more enhanced protection against the virus. A washable mask that kills around 99% of the bacteria and viruses has also already stepped into the global markets.
Although there are various methods of testing for COVID-19, most of them are considerably time as well as resource-consuming. Also, they require an optimum lab setup with knowledgeable technicians and assistants to handle the testing procedures. To minimize this issue, researchers are working towards the development of sensor technologies that will enable quick and immediate detection of the infection. Companies and research institutes are trying to develop point-of-care sensors to detect COVID as soon as the person is infected.
In an optics-based detection method, an ultrasensitive laser sensor is proposed for the earliest point of infection detection within a minute. Here, the test sample is saliva or nasal swab, which passes through receptors (like DNA strands and antibodies) that recognizes the antigens of the virus. Other non-invasive sensing methods like breath fingerprinting are also continuously being researched. The air exhaled contains various organic compounds and volatile gases the analysis of which can help recognize the infection.
Breath fingerprinting, being already used for diseases like diabetes, liver infection, etc, can also be used for early detection of COVID provided proper results and information are available regarding the interaction of the virus with the human cells and its effects. Researchers at the University of Utah are working on a sensor paired with the smartphone through bluetooth link that assists in the detection of COVID-19.
Healthcare authorities are employing drones for multiple purposes like a supply of medicines, disinfection, screening infection symptoms, and food deliveries to affected areas. Drones are also a perfect resort to enable the provision of proper services without person-to-person interaction.
Drones are the perfect resources for extremely faster and safer deliveries. These multi-perspective deliveries like basic needs/ food supplies and then the healthcare supplies like test samples to labs, medicines, and protective equipment, etc. Drones are also used to reduce the load on transport by quickly transporting the retrieved samples from one place to the other for the purpose of testing and also analysis. In more remote places which are inaccessible to technology, ‘lab-on-drones’ can be possible which include sample collection as well as diagnostic methods to speed up the testing process.
Although vaccination is the golden shield against the virus, it is also crucial to disinfect places and keep them sanitized to ensure minimized transmission of viruses and bacteria. While it is a privilege to manually sanitize and disinfect each and every region, air disinfection through drones would be one of the cheapest and the most efficient form of disinfection. Many countries like U.S etc are constantly relying on drone disinfection of regions to minimize the spread of potential carriers.
Technology that analyses the respiratory health of an individual has been coupled with drones in order to improve the overall efficiency of testing. These drones were referred to as the “Pandemic Drones”While the original purpose for the development of this drone was to monitor natural and wildlife disasters, the unique technology incorporated with computer vision and specialized sensors to monitor heart rates, temperature, etc can help use the drone for infection scanning.
How Technology is helping accelerate the Vaccination
With the allotment of vaccines, various hospitals, organizations, and doctors have received calls regarding the eligibility of vaccines and the vaccination and scheduling of the appointment. During times like this, efficient communication sources able to handle the bulk magnitude of calls and messages is necessary to handle the incoming bulk of calls and queries. Cloud based technologies have the capability to scale up communications and set up call centers in record times.
A lot of public places and buildings have been considered the places for administering vaccines. The vaccination centers need to manage ample data regarding who received the vaccination, who did not, who registered, which dose of vaccine are they here for, and many other pieces of information. Health centers in various countries have used solutions that helped build temporary hospitals even in remotest areas like the parking garage. They employed analysis using Wifi to both monitor the temperature and location of medicines and also securely administer the vaccine.
Many organizations have equipped themselves with the technology to manage the capacity at hospitals and other vaccination centers to streamline the data as well as periodic slot management to ensure proper social distancing is maintained at all times.
A major challenge for the healthcare industry is the transport, delivery and storage of these vaccines owing to their strict temperature requirements. Latest technology employing sensors to maintain constant temperature and other prerequisite conditions of the laboratory constant will assist the authorities in the process of vaccination. Having secure, reliable remote observation solutions can make this real-time monitoring possible.