Yet another time IT has helped humanity to save the world
- by Antoniy Yushkevych
- in New Technologies
COVID-19 has taken the world by surprise and caused mass chaos around the globe. Luckily, unlike in the previous pandemics that occurred before modern technology was invented, we were able to utilize internet-connected devices to help battle this global crisis.
Do not let your guard down, the fight against the coronavirus is far from over and we probably didn’t even see the worst of it yet. Practicing social distancing, wearing PPE (i.e. personal protective equipment), and following proper hygiene measures is more important now than ever before with the flu season around the corner. Nevertheless, here’s how modern technology and the internet have helped humanity try to contain the now-widespread disease.
The Grand Migration to Remote Work
As the disease struck developed countries, millions of office workers were forced to transition to working remotely from the confines of their homes. Of course, there are plenty of jobs out there that do not provide such an opportunity, however, if the possibility was there, people worked from home.
Remote work is enabled by technologies including virtual private networks (i.e. VPNs), voice over internet protocols (i.e. VoIPs), virtual meetings, cloud technology, work collaboration tools, and even facial recognition technologies that enable a person to appear before a virtual background to preserve the privacy of the home. In addition to preventing the spread of viruses, remote work also saves commute time and provides more flexibility.
Widespread Distance Learning
By April 2020, 191 countries announced or implemented school or university closures, impacting 1.57 billion students. Many educational institutions started offering courses online to ensure education was not disrupted by quarantine measures. Technologies involved in distant learning are similar to those for remote work and also include virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D printing, and artificial-intelligence-enabled robot teachers.
In the case of Covid-19, AI has been used mainly to help detect whether people have novel coronavirus through the detection of visual signs of Covid-19 on images from computerized tomography (i.e. CT) lung scans; to monitor, in real-time, changes in body temperature through the use of wearable sensors; and to provide an open-source data platform to track the spread of the disease.
AI can process vast amounts of unstructured text data to predict the number of potential new cases by area and which types of populations will be most at risk, as well as to evaluate and optimize strategies for controlling the spread of the epidemic.
Other AI applications can deliver medical supplies by drone, disinfect patient rooms, and scan approved drug databases for medicines that might also work against Covid-19. AI technologies have been harnessed to come up with new molecules that could serve as potential medications or even accelerate the time taken to predict the virus's RNA secondary structure.
Online Shopping and Contactless Deliveries
With people self-isolating and trying to keep social distancing, the easiest and safest way to shop for new items is via the internet. Thus, we saw a boom in the popularity of online shopping and delivery services as well as more and more physical stores opening online shops.
Many delivery companies and restaurants are also launching contactless delivery services where goods are picked up and dropped off at a designated location instead of from or into the hands of a person, further reducing the risk of spreading the disease.
Blockchain applications could monitor disease outbreaks over time by creating 'ledgers' that are both secure and updated hundreds of times per day. Additionally, using blockchain can improve diagnostic accuracy and treatment effectiveness, streamline the rapid isolation of clusters of cases, track drug supply chains and medical supplies, manage medical data, and identify disease symptom patterns.
In cases such as a virus outbreak, where high numbers of real-time incoming data are released, blockchain can reduce uncertainty and offer computational trust, and an automated platform for recording and exchanging consistent factual information between multiple parties
Manufacturers have been joining forces to address supply problems during the Covid-19 pandemic, producing ventilator valves, breathing filters, test kits, and face mask clasps. They are also creating entirely new products such as plastic door handle adaptors that enable easy elbow opening to prevent the further spread of the virus. It is important that organizations that hold proprietary design files for medical equipment make them immediately available so they can be produced anywhere.
3D printing technology has been deployed to mitigate shocks to the supply chain and export bans on personal protective equipment. 3D printing offers flexibility in production: the same printer can produce different products based on different design files and materials, and simple parts can be made onsite quickly without requiring a lengthy procurement process and a long wait for the shipment to arrive.
Online Health Consultations
With outbreaks happening in large hospitals, it is no longer safe to visit them as it was before this awful year, especially if you are already immunocompromised. Thus, telemedicine is evolving as a sustainable solution for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. It is enabling patients to stay at home and communicate with physicians virtually and reduce the spread of viruses. Health services are being urged to leverage telemedicine technologies and self-assessment tools to provide remote care for patients with non-urgent matters.
In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, drones are being used to monitor quarantine measures, to facilitate aerial broadcasting, to spray disinfectant, conduct aerial thermal sensing, monitor traffic, and deliver medical supplies in infected areas. As the situation is becoming more serious, drone software is being rewritten to acquire a multitude of functions, with drones being used to replace helicopter patrols and traditional regular disinfection, for law enforcement purposes and for transportation to shore up epidemic prevention and control in several countries.