AI vs. a pandemic – giving credit where credit is due

21 Jul

The time has come to both acknowledge and offer up a round of applause to the technological advancements the world has made. Right now, we owe a big thank-you to technology for aiding frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19.

If you think about the world, way back in 1918, when the Spanish Flu wiped out 50-million people, it’s obvious just how far we have come. Back then, humanity didn’t have access to the technological discoveries and innovations that we do today. And it was much harder for the population to keep up to date and informed, unlike now.

Today, we have Artificial Intelligence, robots, drones, television and radio news, social media, and the internet! We are surely in a far better position to beat a virus than the world was in 1918!

How Technology has been helping COVID-19 Frontline Workers

While we can’t ignore the fact that humans are intricately involved in the fight against COVID-19 and deserve a great deal of praise for it, we also can’t overlook the role that technology is playing in this fight. Without the advancements in AI and other technology, frontline workers would undoubtedly have had a much harder time.

PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) such as masks and gloves is one thing; mobile phones are alos being used to make protection a great deal easier. Most people have a phone these days, and the track and trace functionality of the mobile device and the various apps that can be installed on them, means that countries can use software to flatten the curve.

Enter the Limelight: AI (Artificial Intelligence)

AI is proving to have a significant impact in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19, in the spotlight, centre stage and shining bright. AI technology is being used to aid the numerous research fields as well as in the process of developing drugs, vaccines, testing kits, and analysing data collected.

AI is also effectively handling contact tracing and risk assessment to ensure that the spread of the virus is minimised. While AI is not curing the disease, it is helping to slow its spread…something that just a few years ago would have been impossible.

The time taken to scan, and research data has been considerably reduced thanks to AI technology is able to do. There is a mass of data from all the various health departments around the world on diseases and viruses that are similar to COVID-19. AI is able to analyse and process this data, freeing up the time of essential health care workers that need to be focusing on patients.

AI Handles Virus Testing & Scanning

AI is doing more than just scanning and analysing data. It is also acting as a viable weapon in the war against this pandemic. As they say, knowledge is power, and knowing who is infected is the type of knowledge required to beat this virus. AI is also able to handle testing for the virus and has had a major positive impact in helping with this in countries such as Brazil, India, and China.

One example of this is the Baidu AI-powered testing station that has been set up in a railway station in Beijing. The system works by scanning individuals with infrared. In just one minute, the system can scan the body temperature of more than 200 people! Because so many masses of people can be scanned on a daily basis, frontline worker’s lives can be better protected.

Another example of AI in action in the war against COVID-19 is the DarwinAI neural network that’s been set up. This is an open-source network which means that it can be freely accessed across the globe. This specialised software is able to scan a patient’s X-rays and determine if the patient has the virus or not. This is particularly useful if testing kits for the virus run out or are hard to come by.

Robots in the COVID-19 Fight

It’s not just computers sifting through data and making sense of X-rays that are helping frontline workers – robots are also being used to their full potential. In order to minimise contact between frontline workers and COVID-19 patients, the Wuchang Hospital in Wuhan is up-staffed with robots. These robots pick up a lot of slack in a busy hospital such as serve meals to patients, disinfect areas of the facility, dispense masks and sanitizers and respond to patient alerts. This leaves frontline workers free to focus on more pressing tasks.

Drones in COVID-19 Fight

Healthcare workers are not the only frontline workers in the fight against Covid-19. Police forces are also on the frontline, enforcing restrictions and ensuring that individuals are practising social distancing and wearing their masks out in public. Drones have proven to be especially helpful in easing the burden and lessening the risk of policemen and policewomen. In Italy, France, China, Spain, Israel, and the UAE, drones are being used to track humans and help maintain a sense of order.

Last Word

As COVID-19 continues to wage war on the world, frontline workers are turning to AI and other technology to minimise risk and ease the burden.

So, let’s hear it for technology. Let’s give a great round of applause for our technological advancements over the years – where would we be without it?!

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