While we were busy debating who would win a battle between Humans and Machines, a third contestant entered the battle scene – a deadly novel Coronavirus. Soon, the contest changed – it became ‘Humans + Machines’ vs ‘The Virus’.
As Covid-19 threat spread across the planet, we joined hands with Technology as our trusted partner in fighting the deadly virus. Our first warrior was the moving Robot with round eyes which was sent to deliver medicines and material in Covid-risk zones. Walmart deployed such robots to scrub its floors and in South Korea, they were used to distribute hand sanitizer. Then came the drones. Drones are being sent to infected areas to collect test samples, spray disinfectants on streets, deliver medicines and detect any violations of physical distancing or crowding restrictions on roads and markets.
Countries rapidly developed mobile applications which can trace the infected and give a warning to others when they come near the infected. ‘Aarogya setu’ App, a Bluetooth based Covid-19 tracker, was launched by the Indian government. This app keeps user informed if the user has crossed paths with positive Covid-19 patient with 6 feet proximity. It also recommends several measures to user such as self-assessment test, social distancing, do’s and don’ts amid Covid-19 and it is equipped with a Chatbot to answer basic questions about corona virus.
China launched smart helmets which can carry out facial detection and measure body temperature. Some countries developed AI based models to predict virus spread based on data and past trends of infections. This helped authorities and healthcare workers plan isolation areas, scaling up of hospital infrastructure. AI based object detection models were used to detect persons behind masks and if people were wearing masks in public places or not. As fake news about virus and medicinal cures started spreading, countries deployed AI-based model to detect fake news on internet to get them removed. To reduce misinformation, companies such as Google and Facebook tied up with WHO to provide direct live updates and verified information. Several organizations started helpline on WhatsApp.
Pharma companies are leveraging AI in suggesting components of a vaccine by understanding viral protein structures and helping medical researchers scour tens of heaps of relevant research papers. AWS is providing a data lake with Covid Data in public domain for analyzing it’s spread patterns across globe. This should help in getting vaccine ready and moving it to trials in a very short time.
Businesses have been disrupted due to necessity of maintaining social distancing. To maintain continuity of business and support social distancing, there is a need for everyone to work from home. Companies started leveraging technologies that help in enabling secure access to data, enterprise platforms, virtual meetings, and webinars.
The unfortunate event of Covid-19 has given impetus for adoption of technology by government, private enterprises and healthcare sector. A disaster has created an opportunity, and we should continue to respond.