What is the Role of Artificial Intelligence in Fighting Coronavirus?
There is nobody in the world right now who hasn’t heard about the Coronavirus. While it started from the Wuhan region in China, it has since become a global pandemic that has spread to almost all countries in the world and killed many people. However, hope is not yet lost. All around the world, countries are using the latest technology like Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Data Science to combat this pandemic. They are using tech for everything like detecting and monitoring Coronavirus and even trying to find a vaccine as soon as possible.
Global tech companies like Google, Alibaba, Baidu, etc. are also doing everything they can to use the cutting edge technology at their disposal and help the governments of various countries in controlling the Coronavirus pandemic. Here’s how multiple tech companies in the world are using technologies like Artificial intelligence and Data Science to fight Coronavirus both at the national and the international level in various ways.
1. Identify, Track and Forecast Coronavirus Outbreaks
It is very important to identify the virus in people and track its growth so that it can be effectively stopped. And we can use Artificial Intelligence to help in that! BlueDot, a Canadian startup, uses Artificial Intelligence to track and predict the outbreak and spreading of various diseases around the world. BlueDot was the company in the world that warned its clients about the spread of “unusual pneumonia” around a market in Wuhan, China. This was the first report of COVID-19 on December 30, 2019, while the World Health Organization declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020.
China also used Artificial Intelligence to identify the people who might have a fever and potentially even Coronavirus. SenseTime, an artificial intelligence SaaS company in Hong Kong used facial recognition technology along with thermal imaging cameras to identify people with high temperatures in China who could have Coronavirus. They also used facial recognition to detect the people who were not wearing masks in public places. People in the Sichuan province in China were also provided smart helmets that could measure the temperature of everyone in a 5m radius. These helmets would sound an alarm if the body temperature of anyone was high indicating Coronavirus potentially.
The Chinese Government also developed a citizen monitoring system called Health Code that used Big Data Analytics to identify if a person was at risk of getting Coronavirus by checking their travel history, their presence in Coronavirus hotspots, their exposure to Coronavirus patients, etc. Based on the results of this analysis, everyone was assigned a color code (red, yellow, or green) that shows if they are at risk or not. Then citizens would be quarantined if their code was red or otherwise allowed to use public spaces like subways, buses, malls, etc.
2. Deliver Medical Supplies and Enforce Curfews Using Drones
The best way to deliver medical supplies in an emergency epidemic situation is to use drones. There are no chances of the medical supplies becoming contaminated by human hands and drones can also transport them much faster than vehicles on the road. Chinese company Antwork used drones to transfer medical testing supplies from the People’s Hospital of Xinchang County to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This took only 6 minutes whereas using road vehicles would have taken almost 20 minutes and delayed the arrival of important medical supplies.
E-commerce company JD in China also used its drone team to deliver important supplies like raw food to Chinese residents. This reduced hours-long drives to deliver products to people and resulted in just 10-minute drone flights. This also ensured that there was limited human contact between the Chinese people which decreased the chances of Coronavirus spreading even further.
Countries like France, Spain, America, etc. are also using drones fitted with loudspeakers to warn people to stay inside so that there is limited human exposure. The speakers on the drones transmit messages like “Travel is prohibited unless there are exceptional circumstances.” or “Please respect the safety distances.” so that people remember and follow the rules meant to reduce the spread of Coronavirus. This method was originally used by China as the epidemic first started there and now it is being copied by the rest of the world.
3. Diagnose Coronavirus in Patients
Artificial Intelligence can also be used to diagnose people and check if they have Coronavirus or not in a short amount of time. The longer it takes for diagnosis, the more potential hosts can spread the virus and infect even more people. Therefore it is very important that Coronavirus can be diagnosed as efficiently and quickly as possible. Infravision, a Beijing-based medical company is using artificial intelligence to diagnose patients much faster than before. Hospital imaging departments in China are overrun as they are helping to diagnose over a thousand Coronavirus cases in a day. In such a situation Infravision AI is decreasing the CT diagnosis speed for each case so that suspected Coronavirus patients can be immediately removed further diagnosis and isolation.
Chinese company Alibaba has also built an AI system that can diagnose Coronavirus with 96% accuracy! The AI system uses CT scans of the patient’s chests to determine if they are infected or not in about 20 seconds. On the other hand, humans can take about 15 minutes to diagnose the illness by seeing the CT scans. Each minute that is decreased in the diagnosis process is critical as it reduces the chances of cross-contamination between patients in the hospital. Alibaba used the CT scan images and data from 5, 000 patients confirmed to have Coronavirus to train the AI system and it has already been tested in hospitals throughout China.
4. Hospital Sterilize and Nursing Duty by Robots
Robots can’t get Coronavirus so they are the obvious choice for sterilizing hospitals and other essential places so people are less likely to get infected by Coronavirus. Blue Ocean Robotics, an award-winning global robotics company used its UVD robots to autonomously kill bacteria and viruses in hospitals with ultraviolet light. The robots tell humans to leave the room, close the door and then start disinfection. These robots were first shipped in large quantities to China and Wuhan in particular but now with the increasing spread of Coronavirus across the world, they are being shipped to other countries in Europe and Asia as well.
China also used robots to replace health workers in hospitals as the Coronavirus continued to spread and there were too few health workers and too many patients. They opened a Smart Field Hospital in the Hongshan Sports Center in Wuhan that was staffed totally by robots with the help of CloudMinds, a cloud robotics company. All the patients that entered this hospital were measured by 5G connected thermometers to check if they were feverish. Patients also wore smart bracelets that were synced with CloudMinds’ AI platform so that there vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, etc. could be monitored continuously. Doctors and nurses were also monitored using these smart bracelets so that early signs of Coronavirus could be detected instantly. Robots also provided food, drinks, and medicine to patients in the hospital and also gave free entertainment by dancing!!!
5. Develop Vaccines to Combat Coronavirus
The most important thing in handling Coronavirus is to create a vaccine against it. And of course, Artificial Intelligence can help in that as well! Google’s AI company, DeepMind, recently guessed the structure of the proteins that make up Coronavirus. Knowing the exact structure of Coronavirus is extremely important in understanding how this virus functions which helps in developing a vaccine. While experiments to find this structure can take months or even more time, DeepMind’s guess of the protein structure could be extremely helpful to researchers even though they are not claiming its 100% accurate.
BenevolentAI, a London based company that normally uses artificial intelligence to find new ways to treat complex diseases and create personalized drugs for patients also suggested a potential drug for Coronavirus. They found out that ACE2 is a protein that coronavirus uses to infect lung cells in humans. And an already existing drug, baricitinib, which is normally used to treat arthritis can be used to reduce the ability of coronavirus to infect lung cells by ACE2. Of course, there is no guarantee that baricitinib or any other existing drug would work on Coronavirus but this is still a start in the right direction.