The role of AI and IoT technologies in the Covid-19 situation

By Ashwini Nandini, India Head – Delivery Assurance, GlobalLogic India

Countries across the globe are assembling all resources and are deploying cutting-edge technologies to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and report people at risk. In this scenario, technologies such as AI and IoT can be vital as they can help track the spread of the virus, identify high-risk patients, predict mortality rate, and control the infection in real-time.

They can also minimize the need for physical human interaction and prevent the spread of viruses while enabling quicker recovery of patients. In these unprecedented times, healthcare technologies have pushed themselves to innovate faster!

Use of IoT

The current cutting-edge IoT products have the potential to play a vital role in limiting the spread of the virus and assisting in the treatment of the infected individuals. Such products that enable touch-free attendance, sanitization conformity, supervising of body temperature, all in one place in real-time, are also aiding in useful data collection while put into use in offices, warehouses, hospitals, etc.

Additionally, products based on facial recognition like touch-free pills distribution and touch-free heartbeat measurement are beneficial aspects for hospitals.

• Tracking the Coronavirus Pandemic

According to a study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), by superimposing geographic information systems (GIS) on IoT mobile data, it can assist epidemiologists in identifying people who have encountered the infected patients. The technology can also assist in monitoring patients who are at high-risk and can provide useful data to the healthcare workforce.

• Connected Thermometers

At hospitals, connected thermometers are being used to monitor the body temperature and notify any differences at real-time. With the help of an IoT Access Controller, these devices receive and transmit real-time patient data from the sensors to a nurse’s station for continuous monitoring.

The gathered data from over one million connected thermometers has been used to generate daily maps indicating which US counties are seeing an increase in high fevers. In India, a team of product experts engineered a contactless fever detection system that uses AI based thermal imaging to remotely read skin temperature of any individual passing through the camera range.

• Smart Wearable

At IIT-Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, researchers have designed sensorized suits that can observe human body parameters and alerts users when their body temperature has elevated more than 37.5 degrees. In China, bracelets and rings synced with AI platforms are being used that provide constant monitoring of vital signs, including temperature, heart rate and blood oxygen levels.

• IoT Buttons

Recently, the first Internet of Things buttons was designed which are being used by hospitals in Canada. It addresses the need for rapid deployment in a facility of any size and sends rapid alerts to management notifying of any cleaning or maintenance issues that may pose risks to public safety.

Use of AI

As of today, AI is demonstrating its capabilities through diagnosing risks and assisting in medical advancements to tackle the pandemic. In the current domain, AI is being used for timely notifications, data dashboards, social control, and medical diagnosis & therapy.

• Monitoring Hospital Visitors and Patients using AI

Hospitals across the world have implemented AI to support medical professionals and treat infected patients to effectively monitor and manage the coronavirus pandemic. Some AI powered solutions such as camera-embedded facial scanners that screen hospital visitors & analyze facial attributes and thermal scans to determine a visitor’s fever conditions. All these solutions have been extensively adapted and have been able to deliver care for thousands of infected patients at an unprecedented rate. Recently, Chinese technologists developed a no-contact infrared sensor system to distinguish individuals with fever, even in masses.

• Remote monitoring

Another powerful form of AI technology is remote monitoring, which is being instigated by medical facilities to protect the workforce and thoroughly monitor patients even in hospital’s dormitories. In one instance, this sensor technology once placed under the patient’s mattress, can analyze the patient’s heart rate, respiratory rate, and body movement under observation amidst taking care of high priority COVID patients.

• COVID voice detector

To comprehend, predict and detect people infected with COVID-19, technology researchers are persuaded to deploy AI tools to identify the infected ones by evaluating the sound of their cough, the way they speak or even breathe.

Currently, these efforts are at a nascent stage where researchers are gathering data – speech and coughing recordings paired with information to determine the infected. After feeding the data to AI algorithms, specifically deep learning, and machine learning programmers, it determines and predicts the outcome.

• India battles COVID-19 through AI

As India also joins the battle to control the spread of coronavirus, AI and technology start-ups in the country are leveraging their tools and solutions to help in combating the crisis. An Indian robotics start-up has been re-purposing its robots into screening and diagnostics robots that collect essential data such as name of the patient, symptoms exhibited and validation such as temperature checks in a contactless manner.

Those having a high body temperature or exhibiting symptoms of the virus will be directed towards the diagnostics robot, which enables a video conversation with a doctor sitting in a remote location. Recently, a team of medical scientists in Kyoto with support from a Professor and students of IIT Roorkee have developed an AI based software that uses X-Ray that detects the coronavirus and also predicts the same in asymptomatic patients with a high accuracy of 99.69%.

At a time when the coronavirus outbreak has affected our daily lives, IoT and AI have become major weapons in tracking and tracing cases. Implementing these technologies have resulted in balancing the need to vanquish the virus with the conflicting need to protect individual privacy.

It is imperative to understand that while there is a dire need of putting efforts to confront the pandemic, it is tremendously crucial that such tools must be limited in use, both in terms of purpose and time, and that individual rights to privacy, non-discrimination, the protection of journalistic sources and other freedoms are rigorously protected.

Roadmap for a better future

Healthcare organizations across the world are in dire need for decision-making technologies to mitigate the spread of the virus in real-time. AI and IoT work in a proficient way to mimic human intelligence and connect devices. Perhaps the positive impact of these technologies will further accelerate the adoption and importance of digital innovation in curbing the pandemic. However, such innovation still needs to be balanced with the continuing need for safety.

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