Covid-19 has taken us by the storm, creating chaos in everyone’s life by forcing them to leave the entire world and be confined within the limits of their homes. But during these difficult times, technology has come to our rescue, from the fields of AI impacting the Prediction and development of the vaccine all the way to having entertainers create online content. Here I have listed 10 impacts of technology during Coronavirus pandemic.
Prediction of the Outbreak
BlueDot software scours hundreds of thousands of sources of information in 65 languages around the world 24×7, to look for signs of trouble. For Covid-19, it’s algorithm picked up a blog post in Chinese describing a pneumonia outbreak involving about 20 people, on New Year’s eve. Within seconds, the program was able to go through anonymous international flight itineraries to predict 20 places the outbreak might spread. It had spotted Covid-19, nine days before the World Health Organization released its statement alerting people to the emergence of a novel coronavirus. The outbreak the algorithm described bore serious similarities to the 2003 SARS outbreak. Their team submitted their findings in a peer-reviewed scientific journal on Jan. 6. By the time the virus showed up in Bangkok, Thailand, on Jan. 13, the wheel was already in motion. Of the 20 places, BlueDot predicted the virus could spread, 12 were among the first destinations to report outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.
Monitoring the World Cases
There are various apps and websites created to help the public, researchers as well as Govt. authorities to keep up-to-date on the no. of cases and their bifurcation into ‘active’, cleared’ and ‘death’. Many apps take their data from Worldometre, a platform that provides real-time statistics for various topics using reliable sources from across the globe. These apps have interactive maps that show the statistics of individual countries, as well as states and cities within them. These maps can also be seen as Heat-maps to get an overview of the state of the world as a whole. They also have graphs showing day to day change in statistics.
Alibaba Group, the world’s largest retailer and e-commerce company, has a research institute, Damo Academy. They have developed a new AI-based diagnostic system that can detect Covid-19 with an accuracy of 96% in record speeds. The system needs a CT scan of the patient for the diagnosis but it’s still faster than human detection and is more reliable compared to the cases flawed by human-error. It still takes a lot of time as the diagnosis needs over 300 CT scan images, but yet it is faster than the alternative.
Robots and Drones
Launched in early 2019, costing $67,000 each, the robots designed by Blue Ocean Robotics have been used in Wuhan to disinfect the hospitals caring for Covid-19 patients.
These robots have eight long bulbs which emit concentrated UV-C light that destroys bacteria, virus and other microbes by damaging their DNA and RNA leaving them unable to multiply. It takes around 20 minutes to disinfect a room. This has been one of the key components in battle against coronavirus in China.
Drones, the next big thing in delivery systems, have also been used in delivery of medications and other essential supplies in quarantined zones in the country.
Developing Medicine and Vaccine
Google’s Deepmind introduced AlphaFold, a system that predicts the 3D structure of a protein-based on its genetic sequence. In March 2020 it was put to test on Covid-19. It was able to give protein structure predictions of several proteins associated with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. By helping understand the viral protein structures and by going through thousands of relevant research papers, AI is making itself incomparable in the quest for a vaccine for Covid-19.
Based on the technology of a lab-scale sonochemical process developed in Bar-Ilan University, an Israeli startup, Sonovia, manufactures anti-pathogen fabric-based Masks. They have developed an ultrasonic fabric-finishing technology for mechanical diffusion of zinc oxide nanoparticles into the fabric. Tests have shown a success rate of 98% on stopping of aerosols that are less than 5 micros in diameter. They have developed masks, not only for humans but also for their pets
AI technologies have led to important day-to-day software like Siri, Alexa; that have become a part of many households. Using the same Natural Language Processing (NLP) chatbots have been designed to answer questions of billions throughout the day. The two leading authorities on the pandemic, WHO and CDC have also put up Chatbots on their site. These chatbots can be accessed throughout the day and night, reducing the burden on healthcare call-centres. Some of the chatbots have also been designed to do the initial self-diagnosis in these trying times, further reducing the load on the Doctors.
Covid-19 has forced most of the world’s population to work from home, making them adapt to the new culture of remote work. This is has forced the transition of in-person meetings to virtual conferences. Zoom, in particular, became the most widely used app for this purpose. It was adapted by offices and schools, who were forced to conduct teaching over the internet. This thought-process has also lead to a boom in online learning sites’ business, they have seen a major spike during the pandemic. It is not just teachers but also doctors who are seeing their patients in a virtual world, especially doctors who don’t need their patient in person, like, to see the reports of a test or for doctors like a psychiatrist who have started conducting their interaction with the doctor over the internet. The entertainers have also stepped up their virtual game, many have started hosting events online, some have started creating content for the internet, while musicians have collaborated to create online music events. All in all, everyone is trying their best to create the new reality as close to the original as possible, no matter how dystopian it feels.
Contact Tracing Apps
Govt.s need to understand who all are possibly suspected to be infected based on every new case, this is where Contact Tracing comes into play. Contact tracing means to go through the recent steps of the new patient to determine who all that person has come in contact with. Traditionally, that would happen through interviews but now we are relying more on technology. Through tracking the location of the patient and the people that were at that location during that time interval, based on their GPS pointers; this is location tracing. While the other alternative is Proximity tracing, which happens through Bluetooth, it records the unique identity of everyone that has come in its vicinity, create a list of people that have come in contact with each other. These technical means are better than traditional as at times people forget and at times, the interaction is not intentional or know, like standing in a queue to buy something, you wouldn’t know the person standing behind you.
The Free Premium on Pornhub
Last but definitely not the least, Pornhub gave free access to its premium content for over a month during the pandemic lockdown to the entire world. Their motto was to help people stay home as much as they cand, and this was a brilliant initiative.
These are the ways that I could see impacting our lives the most, what do you think, which of these or something else altogether impacted your life, do let me know in the comments. And as always, thanks for reading!