How tech can help us cope with COVID-19
It entered our world suddenly.
The novel coronavirus, now referred to as COVID-19, has taken lives in a heartbeat and spread through the world before we could even grasp what a pandemic would look like. Now, the world is struggling to regain control.
In this new war, the emergence of technological solutions has been the light at the end of the tunnel. Extraordinary challenges require extraordinary solutions and it is great to see we can develop them at high speed, in often unexpected collaborations. Creativity has risen to an unprecedented level and ideas have come from unexpected sectors and corners.
Let’s shed some light on some of the most innovative tech solutions that have sprung up throughout the world:
Virus tracking tech – enabling us to fight at the right place, quicker
Thanks to the exponential growth of connectivity and data we have the ability to track the spread of the disease rapidly. This is crucial: the better we track, the better we fight the disease.
The Canadian start-up BlueDot has proven to be able to pre-warn us about outbreaks. They have had relevant information prior to Centres for Disease Control. Metabiota, a health tech company, offered early analysis about the virus’s spread, which led to a warning that the virus would reach South Korea, Japan and Taiwan a week earlier than expected. This enabled everyone in those regions to take appropriate measures, with better results. By tracking the disease, we can help contain its spread.
Diagnostic and preventative tech – improving accuracy & speed
In this pandemic, diagnosing the virus correctly, but at great speed, is crucial. Tech helps us to do this too.
Airports, most of which are more or less closed by now, have used technology to track infections, by taking people’s temperatures. Biosticker, for instance, can speed this up; it measures an individual’s temperature, respiration rate and coughing, and can transmit updates every 10 minutes.
The company Infervision have developed an AI solution that helps healthcare workers to detect and monitor the disease more effectively. The solution improves CT diagnosis speed. Remote health apps with chatbots that use AI can also screen people to check who is feverish and can be used simply by people at home. Initial advice can be given via chatbot, taking some of the pressure on general practitioners away.
Deploying robots to the Corona battlefields
Robots could play a crucial part in crises such as these, since they cannot become infected. We can and should use them as much as possible where it is risky to use humans. Blue Ocean Robotics can be sent to the virus battlefield. They use ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and viruses.
We have no time to lose, literally. People must be protected. Robots can work in our place - they are not at risk. The company Blue Ocean Robotics, moves around hospitals by itself, taking elevators and stairs without any problem and without any worries of the virus. It disinfects 99.9% of bacteria and viruses. It is not in the way and does not interrupt staff workflow. Through a Chinese partner, Sunay Healthcare Supply, the robots have been deployed since February in all Chinese provinces.
Collaboration without barriers
The war against the virus has united us – encouraging us to collaborate more throughout the world. This goes for the tech sector too. In the US, the Consumer Technology Association has partnered with the World Bank Group on the Global Tech Challenge, calling on tech companies around the globe to develop innovative solutions together.
One result of this collaborative ecosystem is that tech startups are actively involved with specialists in hospitals, academics and government entities around the world to activate technology. In the Netherlands, DSM CEO Feike Sijbesma had just handed over to his successors, only to be asked by the minister of health to support the government in acquiring more test materials. Governments are acknowledging global business leadership and knowledge of technology is a crucial skill they need. The crisis requires us to put everyone’s valuable experience and skillsets into service.
The Coronavirus outbreak is a huge challenge, yet there is an opportunity for Tech to prove its value to the world. I personally hope that it will help Tech for Good to become the norm, rather than the exception. With the right mindset and collaborative approach, we create a world that is so strong we can face any challenge.
Marga Hoek is a global thought-leader on sustainable business and the author of The Trillion Dollar Shift, a new book revealing the business opportunities provided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Trillion Dollar Shift is published by Routledge, priced at £30.99 in hardback and free in e-book. For more information go to www.margahoek.com/
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