Artificial Intelligence, Data Science and Technology to Fight the Coronavirus Pandemic

The collaboration between science and the state during past crises led to dramatic acceleration of technological capabilities. During the Second World War, science and the state got together to move nuclear physics from the lab to the battle field. The Cold War between America and Russia promoted the development of space technology, microelectronics, communications and computing.

In a global pandemic such as COVID-19, technology, artificial intelligence, and data science have become critical to helping societies effectively deal with the outbreak.

  • Since the first report of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Wuhan, China initiated its response to the virus, it leaned on its strong technology sector and specifically artificial intelligence (AI), data science, and technology to track and fight the pandemic while tech leaders, including Alibaba, Baidu, Huawei and more accelerated their company’s healthcare initiatives.
  • A World Health Organization report said AI and big data were a key part of China’s response to the virus.

Coronavirus Tracking Using GIS Software and real time date analytics (John Hopkins University)

Major Applications of technology

Artificial intelligence, data science, and technology are being used in the following ways to manage and fight COVID-19.

  1. Identify, track and forecast outbreaks
    • The better we can track the virus, the better we can fight it.
    • By analyzing news reports, social media platforms, and government documents, AI can learn to detect an outbreak.
    • Sharing anonymized data about people’s movements and high-resolution population density maps, will help forecast the spread of the virus.
    • Social networking platforms are also helping understand how people are talking about the issue online, which can be an important indicator of psychological effect on the human population
  2. Help diagnose the virus:
    • Artificial Intelligence Company Infervision launched a coronavirus AI solution that helps front-line healthcare workers detect and monitor the disease efficiently.
    • Imaging departments in healthcare facilities are being taxed with the increased workload created by the virus.
    • This solution improves CT diagnosis
  3. Drones deliver medical supplies and for tracking quarantine:
    • One of the safest and fastest ways to get medical supplies where they need to go during a disease outbreak is with drone delivery.
    • Terra Drone is using its unmanned aerial vehicles to transport medical samples and quarantine material with minimal risk between Xinchang County’s disease control centre and the People’s Hospital.
    • Drones also are used to patrol public spaces, track non-compliance to quarantine mandates, and for thermal imaging.
  4. Sterilize, deliver food and supplies and perform other tasks:
    • Robots aren’t susceptible to the virus, so they are being deployed to complete many tasks such as terilizing and delivering food and medicine to reduce the amount of human-to-human contact.
    • UVD robots from Blue Ocean Robotics use ultraviolet light to autonomously kill bacteria and viruses.
  5. Develop drugs:
    • Google’s DeepMind division used its latest AI algorithms and its computing power to understand the proteins that might make up the virus, and published the findings to help others develop treatments.
    • BenevolentAI uses AI systems to build drugs that can fight the world’s toughest diseases and is now helping support the efforts to treat coronavirus, the first time the company focused its product on infectious diseases.
  6. Advanced fabrics offer protection:
    • Companies such as Israeli startup Sonovia hope to arm healthcare systems and others with face masks made from their anti-pathogen, anti-bacterial fabric that relies on metal-oxide nanoparticles.
  7. Process healthcare claims:
    • It’s not only the clinical operations of healthcare systems that are being taxed but also the business and administrative divisions as they deal with the surge of patients.
    • A blockchain platform offered by Ant Financial helps speed up claims processing and reduces the amount of face-to-face interaction between patients and hospital staff.
  8. AI to identify non-compliance or infected individuals:
    • Surveillance system used facial recognition technology and temperature detection software from to identify people who might have a fever and be more likely to have the virus.
    • The Chinese government has also developed a monitoring system called Health Code that uses big data to identify and assesses the risk of each individual based on their travel history, how much time they have spent in virus hotspots, and potential exposure to people carrying the virus.
  9. Chatbots to share information:
    • People can access free online health consultation services through chatbots.
    • Chatbots have also been essential communication tools for service providers in the travel and tourism industry to keep travelers updated on the latest travel procedures and disruptions.
  10. Supercomputers working on a coronavirus vaccine:
    • The cloud computing resources and supercomputers of several major tech companies are being used by researchers to fast-track the development of a cure or vaccine for the virus.
    • The speed these systems can run calculations and model solutions is much faster than standard computer processing.
  11. Robots and Telemedicine
    • Using robots to clean hospitals and in collaboration with doctors and nurses can drastically reduce the work load on the medical personnel
    • Telepresence systems for remote meeting, consultations, or simply to connect with loved ones.

Across the world, policymakers see a growing role for technology in identification, tracking, and treating the coronavirus. For the small tech startups in related areas, this is a moment to shine. For the large tech companies, this is a huge opportunity to deploy their immense capabilities to resolve the specific problems posed by the spread of the coronavirus.

A small tech company in Canada — BlueDot — was among the first outside China to spot a new epidemic spreading out from Wuhan last December. BlueDot did this by sifting through massive volumes of news reports and blogs by individuals, including health professionals flowing out of China.
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