In recent months, humanity has been facing a new Coronavirus, much more complex than its predecessors, with a “basic reproductive number” spread rate, almost double that of normal influenza. Nearly 195 countries were affected, WHO declared a global pandemic on 12 March 2020.
Despite advances in medicine, pharmacy, and medical technology, this disease has defied everyone, highlighted the limits of science, “locked the world,” and closed borders, leaving only one solution to humanity, that known for centuries, namely, isolation and social distancing. Yet, despite the sensitivity and difficulty of the situation, humanity is waging a courageous struggle and is looking at data science and “new-age” technologies to stop or even slow down the spread of the virus. These technologies not only help fight the current health pandemic, but also strengthen our ability to manage these kinds of health crises in the future. In order to cope with the epidemic, China has been working on its technological knowledge base, to combat the disease while ensuring the continuity of economic and social life.
Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Baidu asked their employees to work from home just after the outbreak was de reported. In all countries affected by the disease, the way of working has been disrupted, no face-to-face meetings, less office trips, less physical contact with employees, less paper, less bureaucracy. Several leaders around the world have been confined, the Canadian Prime Minister has tested positive for Coronavirus, worked in self-quarant and provided a tele-governance to fulfill his administrative responsibilities, as well as Prince Charles and several political figures around the world. Today, Coronavirus has introduced us to good habits, we only need a laptop and a good Internet connection to access our desktop server, work on our project and get the desired results. Online services can be used for remote meetings, web conferences and file transfer between computers. Working from home will be the fruit of this crisis, saving expensive office space, reducing transportation expenses, paper and office supplies, and increasing employee productivity.
In this time of crisis, teachers have tried to get around the difficulties, to look for an alternative to face-to-face teaching, sometimes by using less-anticipated tools than expected, such as Snapchat, Facebook live, Wattsup groups, or even to create a virtual class, which allows a teacher to give courses in video conferencing. The other part is the teaching resources, with course chapters for the different subjects. The parents also showed total adherence to this one-off metamorphosis.
Sterilization robots, food delivery and supplies
Some risky hospital tasks have been delegated to robots, as they are not susceptible to the virus, so they are deployed to perform cleaning and sterilization, delivery of food, delivery of medicines and to minimize human-to-human contact. Blue Ocean Robotics’ UVD robots use ultraviolet light to autonomously eradicate bacteria and viruses.
The Coronavirus epidemic has boosted the practice of telemedicine, i.e. the consultation of a doctor remotely, by telephone, or via the internet via interposed webcams. The majority of doctors have opted for this method of managing consultations, in order to avoid contact with patients and patients at the level of health facilities. Even the most skeptical countries have been forced to speed up the legal framework allowing the widespread use of this medicine remotely.
Although ethically controversial, facial and iris recognition solutions built into infrared thermometers are increasingly being used to screen and track people with Covid-19. This virtual biometrics technique is also used to track the movements of suspected infected people and quarantine them.
With the advent of data science and deep learning or machine learning algorithms, we are now able to access large amounts of data, collected from different sources of information. From Coronavirus detection to CT scans, smarter contact search, epidemic monitoring, epidemiological data analysis and even clinical trials in record time. Contact search is imperative to ensure that anyone in close contact with infected patients is detected, confined and monitored. Technology and AI can significantly speed up the processing of the data needed to obtain the information, responses and recommendations to be able to manage and combat the Covid-19 pandemic, with better accuracy than expected. However, the consequences of this technological wave, which seems to have a general interest (protection of public health), will have to be anticipated and clarified, its dimensions must be delineated and well framed beforehand, including the data collection system, facial recognition and visual biometrics.