During December of 2019, the first case of COVID-19 appeared in Wuhan, China. Ever since, the disease spread more quickly than anticipated and has now engulfed millions around the globe, with the continent of Europe being affected the most. The United States currently leads in the number of most cases, and the emerging data is staggering.
Some countries in the region announced more drastic measures to slow the spread of this disease, which could collapse their weak health systems. As an example, many declared their entire territory in a state of emergency, closing borders and announcing compulsory social isolation. However, even if the other countries imitate these measures, will they be sufficient?
On the other side of the world, we have China, a country that invests heavily in science and technology. When the virus began to spread throughout its territory, it had the ability to lean on its strong technology sector, especially artificial intelligence (AI), data science, and other technologies that help detect and track the disease.
According to Forbes, companies like Alibaba, Baidu, Huawei and others have promoted health-related initiatives. As a consequence, these technology companies were able to work together with doctors, academics, and government entities to slow the rapid advance of the coronavirus.
In that regard, here are some ways that artificial intelligence, data science, and other technologies are currently being used to combat COVID-19.
AI to Track Outbreaks
Tracking where there will be a virus outbreak can help us take preventive measures to prevent the spread. When an AI is trained with news reports, social media, and government documents, it can learn to detect when there will be an outbreak.
This is not science fiction. The Canadian startup BlueDot offers the service: tracking and anticipating infectious disease risks. In fact, their artificial intelligence warned of the threat nine days before the World Health Organization issued a statement warning people of the appearance of a new coronavirus.
AI to Detect the Virus in People
Artificial intelligence can also help health workers detect and control disease efficiently. This is what is done in hospitals like the one in Zhongnan, which are assisted in an AI to detect typical or partial signs of COVID-19. The mentioned software was developed by the Chinese startup Infervision with the help of a program that powers startups from NVIDIA.
On the other hand, the Chinese technology giant Alibaba announced a new artificial intelligence system that could detect the coronavirus in seconds with 96% accuracy.
Drones for Delivery of Medical Supplies
One of the fastest and safest ways to deliver medical supplies is through drones. Terra Drone, for example, is using its unmanned aerial vehicles to transport medical samples and quarantine material with minimal risk between the Xinchang County Disease Control Center and the People’s Hospital in China.
The use of drones could also be useful for monitoring streets and enforcing quarantine mandates that some countries have implemented.
Use of Robots
Robots cannot contract the disease, which is why in China they are helping to clean, sterilize, deliver medicines and food with the aim of reducing human contact.
Blue Ocean Robotics robots use ultraviolet light to autonomously kill bacteria and viruses, significantly helping to fight the coronavirus.
AI to Develop Treatments and Medicines
Google’s DeepMind used its algorithms and computational power to reveal what proteins are present in this coronavirus and published the findings to help develop treatments.
On the other hand, BenevolentAI currently uses its artificial intelligence to support efforts worldwide to treat the coronavirus. So far, it has used its predictive capabilities to propose existing drugs that could be useful.
AI for the Control of Infected People
China has a powerful surveillance system in most of its territory, which has been criticized many times. However, this time, thanks to cameras, artificial intelligence in facial recognition and temperature detection, the Asian country has the power to identify any citizen who walks the streets with a fever and is more likely to have the virus.
In addition, the Chinese government also develops a monitoring system that uses large databases to assess each individual’s risk based on their travel history. In this way, it is known if the person was at a critical point of infection or if they were exposed to people who carry the virus. Citizens are then assigned a color, through the WeChat or AliPay applications, which indicates whether they should stay at home or if they could be taken to the streets.
Supercomputers to Find a Vaccine
Current technology allows us to access computing power in the cloud and on supercomputers. Larger tech companies like Tencent, DiDi, and Huawei have these types of technologies that accelerate the development of a vaccine for this coronavirus.
The advantage of these systems is that they can perform calculations and simulate different situations much faster than a conventional computer would.
In emergencies, like the one we are experiencing now thanks to COVID-19, technology can be on our side; However, the situation in Latin America is different. Probably in the region, we will not be able to adopt ideal technological measures to combat this pandemic, but can we do it for the next one? And the next one?