How Can Technology Help Fight the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Nazar -
Illustration: © IoT For All

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues unfolding, technology solutions and government initiatives are multiplying to help monitor and control the virus’s journey. Their aid includes reducing the load on the health system and reinforcing the efforts of overworking and burned-out healthcare workers.

While smart technologies cannot replace or compensate public institution measures, they do play a crucial role in emergency responses. Let’s take a look at the promising use cases of how technology can help fight the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Technologies Used for Good

People tend to think of technology as a heartless machine, which is true, but only until it’s used for good. Just look at all the wonderful things we’ve managed to do with its help.

Telemedicine is gaining traction by offering remote patient monitoring and interactive remote doctor’s visits. At the same time, 3D printing and open-source solutions are facilitating the production of more affordable face masks, ventilators, and breathing filters as well as optimizing the supply of the medical equipment. Even more, the pandemic has driven scientists to desperate measures. They are now experimenting with gene editing, synthetic biology, and nanotechnology to develop and test vaccines faster than ever in the history of humanity.

Smart technologies like the Internet of things (IoT), big data, and artificial intelligence (AI) are being massively adopted to help track the disease spread and contagion, manage insurance payments, uphold medical supply chains, and enforce restrictive measures. Let’s go step by step to see how IoT, AI, big data, and mobile solutions are actually enhancing medical care.

IoT for Smart Patient Care Management and Home Automation

IoT has already found its use among healthcare providers. Today, connected patient imaging, health devices or applications, worker solutions, and ambulance programs are being adopted globally. But COVID-19 made the technology take on new applications to help the world combat the epidemic. Tracking quarantine, pre-screening and diagnosing, cleaning and disinfecting, innovative usage of drones, reducing in-home infections, are all “new normals” thanks to IoT.

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For example, an American health technology company Kinsa creates smart thermometers that screen and aggregate people’s temperature and symptoms data in real-time. Having gathered data from over one million connected thermometers, Kinsa rolled out its US HealthWeather™ Map.

The map is updated daily, highlighting how severely the population is being affected by influenza-like illness (ILI). This real-time information helps health authorities see an increase. In fevers as early indicators of the community spread of COVID-19 to streamline the allocation of health resources. These areas are marked in the “Atypical” mode of the map.

To slow down the spread of COVID-19, a team of Seattle engineers created Immutouch, a smart wristband vibrating every time a person wearing it tries to touch their face.

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Smart speakers, lights, and security systems are being used to open doors and switch on lights to reduce in-home infections. These gadgets allow people to avoid touching the surfaces of doorknobs, switches, mail, packages, or anything that could easily spread germs.

The Role of Big Data in Fighting Coronavirus

Tapping into big data is a must to develop real-time forecasts and arm healthcare professionals with a profound database to help with decision-making.

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IBM Clinical Development system is an advanced Electronic Data Capture (EDC) platform that allows an accelerated delivery of medications to market and reduces the time and cost of clinical trials thanks to cognitive computing, patient data assets, and IoT. Additionally, the U.S. government had been in active talks with Facebook, Google, and others to determine how to use location data to glean insights for combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Could Mobile Apps be Used to Control the Pandemic?

The COVID-19 pandemic has become a game-changer for the healthcare continuum. Today’s mobile apps are on guard to help patients receive online therapy, at-home testing, conclude self-checks, and improve mental well-being. Thanks to smartphone apps, it is now possible to trace the virus’s journey and help limit its spread.

Apple COVID-19, for instance, was created in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the White House, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The application contains vital and relevant information from trusted sources on the coronavirus pandemic: hand hygiene practices, social distancing FAQs, quarantine guidelines, self-checking tutorials, tips on cleaning, and disinfecting surfaces. On top of that, it has a screening tool that advises people on what to do when a person has COVID-19 symptoms, has just returned from abroad, or has come in close contact with someone who might be infected with the disease.

Meanwhile, health authorities in Abu Dhabi have created the TraceCovid app for Bluetooth-enabled smartphones to minimize the spread of the disease. The service allows tracing individuals who have come into proximity with a person tested positive for COVID-19. Thanks to it, medical professionals сan react faster and render the necessary healthcare. Germany, in turn, is going to roll out a smartphone app, which will use Bluetooth to alert people if they are close to someone with the confirmed viral infection.

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Telemedicine has also proved to be an efficient tool for flattening the curve. The Sheba Medical Centre, the largest Israeli hospital, launched a telehealth program for remote patient-monitoring to control the pandemic spread. Doctolib, a Franco-German company, Qare (France), Livi (Sweden), Push Doctor (the UK), Compugroup Medical (Germany) are offering virtual doctors too.

Using AI to Identify, Track and Forecast Outbreaks

Artificial intelligence-powered by natural language processing (NLP) and location monitoring is crucial for identifying, tracking, and scanning outbreaks, predicting hotspots and helping make better decisions.

For example, Microsoft collaborated with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create an AI-based COVID-19 Assessment bot to treat patients more effectively and allocate limited resources. The bot, nicknamed Clara, can evaluate symptoms, advice on the next steps to take and track users who need urgent care the most.

The Canadian startup BlueDot has applied AI to spot and track the spread of COVID-19 and predict outbreaks, and the Japanese company Bespoke rolled out Bebot, an AI-powered chatbot that was developed specifically for travelers. This mobile app informs and assists them with coronavirus-related questions as they move about.

Conclusion

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has become a real-life test for everyone. It has caused tremendous damage, but at the same time, it has forced tech innovators to roll out advanced solutions, and it seems that they don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.

Healthcare providers across the globe are continually switching to smart technologies. So if you are in the smart technology niche, consider the current trends to steer your business in the right direction.

Author
Nazar - Delivery manager, Vakoms

Contributors
IoT For All
IoT For All
Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All. If you're interested in contributing to IoT For All, cli...
Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All. If you're interested in contributing to IoT For All, cli...