The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and the disease COVID-19 are the most discussed and the most impactful things of 2020. After the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019, the virus moved to other countries and infected almost 1.5 million people so far. Right now, China is in the best position as the spread stopped there. Mainly, it’s thanks to strict quarantine and lockdown measures that helped the national healthcare system.
However, there’s another reason. China reported active cooperation with local and international tech firms, including Huawei and Alibaba. Thus, we want to study how innovative technologies can boost the experience of patients and medical workers during the pandemic. It seems that tech-oriented strategies are highly effective as they improve the reaction and response of healthcare facilities and ordinary people. But is it true?
Top 5 Ways Innovations Can Help
With this COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes clear that technologies can improve our lives and even save it. Data collection for better tracking, improved information access for clinics, 3D printing, even social help – technologies facilitate nearly every aspect. Below, we reveal five of the most prominent examples of this new trend.
1. Big Data Helps with Research
Large data sets focused on the genetic tree of SARS-CoV-2, and other coronaviruses can help to understand the spreading mechanisms. Nextstrain works on data research, visualization, and sequencing that shows how the virus mutates under different circumstances. For instance, the project helped to confirm that the virulence doesn’t depend on the region.
2. Chats and Apps Keep Patients at Home
From professional telehealth to general advisory text chats, remote communications are essential for the modern world. What’s the most important, these services let people stay home, avoid visiting hospitals, and slow down the coronavirus spread. As well, these solutions reduce the load on telephone lines in big cities.
Examples of remote healthcare and educational services are as follows:
- CoronaMadrid portal allows Madrid residents to self-test and to get tips.
- Facebook puts its Coronavirus Information Center notes at the top of the feed.
- Google described symptoms, prevention, and treatment right in the search.
- Open Salud in Spain has a remote consultation platform for doctors and clinics.
- The WHO has its own WhatsApp chatbot with core info about COVID-19.
- WeChat delivers free health consultations to its customers.
- Xuhui clinic in Shanghai consults patients regardless of their location.
3. Robots Deliver Supplies
The best way to monitor the situation and help people in need during the pandemic is via robotics. Machines are immune to this disease so they can easily go outside. China, Italy, and France are already using drones to deliver medical supplies and track how people keep social distancing or isolation.
Apart from drones, more sophisticated robots help in this battle. They clean rooms, sterilize clinics, and also deliver food or supplies. China also leads here with dozens of robots deployed to hospitals. This strategy helps to reduce the number of human contacts, assist healthcare facilities in their work, protect people.
4. ML and AI Look for Therapy
Apart from trend prediction and genome analysis, AI tools based on Big Data and ML can contribute to drug development. Overall, the combination of large clean data packages and robust AI systems can be extremely beneficial. Here are a few notable examples of this trend:
- AbCellera studies the recovered patients to find antibodies.
- BenevolentAI tries to develop new treatments and suggests existing drugs.
- Google DeepMind researches which proteins form the virus.
- Supercomputers of different companies deliver processing power.
5. New Materials for Essential Equipment
As the number of cases rises, more and more countries fail to provide the necessary basics for their citizens. People die because of the lack of ventilators. The virus spreads faster due to mask shortage. Activists unite to develop new solutions. For instance, one of the Spanish teams tested a custom 3D-printed respirator, Ukrainian healthcare workers offer low-cost ventilators made from plastic bags, and Israeli startup Sonovia sells anti-pathogen masks.
Contribution of (Not) Ordinary People
But what to do if you want to help? Rest assured, not only tech giants can contribute to the global coronavirus resistance. Regular people with and even without tech skills have plenty of support options. Check the list below to find out some opportunities:
- Columbia University 3D-Printed Face Shields. Digital and data experts from the university are working on custom protection for medical workers. But they need a comprehensive dashboard to coordinate mask makers and distributors. You can help with this task, make own 3D mask or assist with delivery to New York clinics.
- COVID-19 Testing System. The team of activists and researchers from the University of South Carolina is building an advanced digital testing dashboard. It will include the list of people who want to check themselves, info about testing criteria, anonymous reviews. Data scientists, web designers, and general communicators are needed.
- Gift Card Bank. Authors estimated that around $3 billion in balances of gift cards and vouchers remain unused. Thus, they launched this project that aggregates such donations, combines them, and delivers to people in need, especially during the pandemic. The team looks for back-end developers and automation engineers.
- Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Map. The open-source project is one of the most famous coronavirus dashboards. The team is looking for experts in visualization, data cleansing, and web development. Also, experts in different industries like epidemiology can help by reviewing data.
Other projects open for volunteers are available on Help with COVID platform. If you’ve found something suitable for you, feel free to contribute! We can protect and fight the virus together, with constant cooperation between researchers, analysts, tech companies, and citizens of all countries.
At the end of the day, COVID-19 is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century. It’s a global crisis that affects all industries and all people, regardless of their location, age, and social status. In such times, technologies are lifebuoys. AI, Big Data, robots, remote communication – all these things can flatten the infection curve, reduce the healthcare system burden, and save thousands of lives. Don’t forget that anybody can help the world today.