Weapons Against the Invisible Army

How technology is being used to save lives and keep our society running during the COVID-19 pandemic

Early December 2019. Pneumonia of unknown cause reported to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) China Office. Many more will be reported in the upcoming days.

Late December 2019. Our world is getting ready for a hopeful and exciting new year as we make our New Year’s Resolution and enjoy our time with family and friends. That is until a “…cluster of pneumonia cases are reported from Wuhan” (Credit: WHO International). These unknown cases of pneumonia later spread to all of China. We know this as COVID-19.

January 2020. China makes genome sequencing of the novel coronavirus publicly available”: A huge and hopeful step to finding a cure for this “widely unknown virus”.

Late January 2020. The first case of novel coronavirus outside of China is confirmed.

February 2020. Over 2 million cases confirmed with 120 thousand…dead.

COVID-19 is changing our lives and without a cure, our society is becoming less and less hopeful of safety during this desperate time.

As pharmaceutical companies race against the clock to find a vaccine, many have taken a less ‘complex’ approach…

Technology.

But trust me, this is going to be fun!

Technology has already proven to be revolutionary in most of the industries.

And healthcare is no different, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saving Lives Using Technology

Technology is currently being utilized in creative ways all over the globe to combat and flatten the curve to an exponentially growing virus: COVID-19.

From Drones to Robotic Doctors, this is how technology is being used to tackle COVID-19… in some, well, fresh new ways!

Drones

  1. Medical Drones

At the moment, “medical drones” are currently being used mainly in Asia, but are starting to be introduced into many European countries as well.

These drones can have several functions:

a) Thermal Scanning

As the entire country of China implements new strategies to combat COVID-19 and its spread, something that stands out most are the: Temperature Checks.

Temperature checks help with scanning citizens’ temperature before entering buildings. This helps to contain the virus.

Sounds perfect right!

Well, it isn’t really.

You see, people are conducting the temperature checks and they are at risk of exposure to COVID-19. So in reality, these temperature checks aren’t as “great” as we thought they were.

Now, what if I told you that we could continue with these temperature checks without risking any human exposure.

That’s when Thermal Drones equipped with “thermal scanners” come into play.

These drones roam the streets of China and detect citizens’ temperature. If someone’s temperature is too high, the drone will recognize it as a common symptom of COVID-19 and will directly report it to the authorities for action.

This is a very effective approach because it allows for quick and accurate detection of possible COVID-19 carriers. This helps to locate these carriers, hopefully, even before they can spread the virus.

b) Disinfecting

Instead of risking human exposure, drones can spray disinfectants in quarantined areas. Many are saying that this is a more cost-effective and reliable approach to disinfecting. But is that the case?

Disinfecting drones are being greatly utilized in Asia, however, aerial spraying is widely banned in Europe.

These drones cover large areas which is great, but many are skeptical of its effectiveness.

Luckily, the drones’ effectiveness is verified in places such as South Korea. This country is using drones to spray disinfectants from a high location, a location which humans wouldn’t be able to reach. The drones also spray in more quantities. Because of this, these drones can cover larger areas, faster.

Now, you might be thinking that drones don’t fall under a “cost-effective” approach, which could be true in some cases. However, with the task of disinfecting, we could use previous models of drones to achieve this job.

For example, South Korea is being largely praised for its “technological” and swift response to COVID-19.

They’ve introduced drones previously developed for agriculture, to spray disinfectants from the sky.

This is known as, Drone Quarantine.

To re-evaluate the effectiveness of these drones, let’s answer a question many have: Are drones faster than humans when it comes to disinfecting large areas?

The answer is yes! By a lot!

“The drones can carry up to 10 litres of disinfectant and cover about 20 km a day. A human being can cover about 4–5 km a day, whereas a drone can cover 20,” says Prem Vi Slawath, co-founder and CEO of Marut Drones — a leading drone company at the front line of aerial disinfecting.

So drones’ capabilities have been proven! Places which would have taken weeks to disinfect are being disinfected within a matter of days, by virtue of drones.

As we hope to see a change in many countries regarding aerial spraying regulations, it is clear, drones are playing a significant role in fighting COVID-19.

Robotics

  1. Robotic Doctors?

Yes, you read that right, ‘Robotic Doctors’. What we used to believe as Sci-Fi is quickly becoming a reality in our society. I mean, it already is…

At Alexandra Hospital, Singapore, doctors are using the Beam Pro.

The function of Beam Pro is to allow doctors to examine and provide medication to patients with COVID-19 for the purpose of minimizing physical contact. In turn, this plays a major role in decreasing human spread of one of the most contagious viruses, ever. It also increases “accessibility to patients” (Credit: CNA) which could be the deciding factor between life and death.

Robots are also being used to sterilize hospital rooms.

A Danish company by the name of UVD Robots or UV Disinfecting Robots, shipped robots to Chinese hospitals to accomplish this task.

Every day, the number of deaths related to hospital acquired infections increase. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number is only getting worse.

That is why this is a great opportunity to implement these disinfecting robots.

Now you might have a few questions in mind, such as, how do these robots work?

Are they effective?

Can they be implemented in countries over the globe?

Well luckily for you, I have an answer to each one of those questions.

So, let’s start with the basics - how do these robots work?

Well they actually emit ultraviolet light - a light used to kill microbes like COVID-19. With this light, the robots can kill viruses and bacteria without exposing human personnel to infection. These machines can be remotely operated by health workers who remain at a safe distance.

But that’s not it, the effectiveness of the robot is verified by many.

“We found the UVD robot to be superior compared to other technologies…,” says, Su Yan, CEO of Sunay Healthcare Supply, a medical equipment supplier to the Chinese market.

It is clear, drones and robots’ role in eliminating and minimizing COVID-19 is greatly significant. As these machines are being expanded into many countries over the globe, we know for a fact that they are the future of our world and hopefully, they will be a huge part in saving lives, and creating a better future.

3. Supercomputers

Supercomputers are being used all over the globe, including the United States of America where they help with data analysis, virus structure and genetic research of COVID-19.

a) Data Analysis

Supercomputers are known to be able to perform large and complex tasks that conventional computers would never be able to complete. This is why a multitude of data is being given to supercomputers to figure out key information needed in hospitals to maintain a recoverable environment for patients with COVID-19.

Eg. Amount of beds, doctors and resources.

With this information, hospitals will be able to order required resources ahead of time, to maximize effectiveness when it comes to patients.

b) Virus Structure and Genetic Research

Supercomputers are outstandingly faster than ordinary computers. 200 million atoms to be exact. This is why problems which would have taken months to complete, are accomplished in just a single day.

“We could get these calculations done in one day on the supercomputer, whereas a normal computer, it would take a month,” says Jeremy Smith, director of the Center for Molecular Biophysics at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

This is when virus structure research comes in handy.

To find a cure to COVID-19, we must know the properties of the virus itself and as our society is relatively new to this virus and is lacking important information of it, supercomputers can be used to find this “needed” data within, a much smaller period of time. Effectiveness at its finest!

What Does the Future Look Like for Technology During This Pandemic?

Well, its certain, the future is bright. Not only for technology but for our society.

The technologies listed above have played a vital role in flattening the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to do so.

The positive thing is, technology isn’t finished yet.

Researchers around the globe are trying to employ dozens of other technologies to help “track, test and treat COVID-19” (Credit: Mobile Health News).

Our society is entering a new era of innovation… Innovation which will help to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and innovation which will lead our world, into the future.

But technology can’t do it by itself.

We all need to cooperate to flatten the curve.

Hey! Thank you so much for reading this article, it means a lot!

However, during this difficult time, let’s thank someone in our lives for what they do (you can leave your thanks in the response section down below).

I for one can thank my family for their everlasting love and support they provide me no matter what. I am extremely lucky and honored to have them in my life.

I want to also thank medical workers, first responders and all essential workers who are at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. They are the people who are risking their lives each day, for ours. I can’t even imagine how terrible our world would be without their selfless desire to help.

Thank you all for your dedication, passion and love during this difficult time!

TEDx Speaker | Innovator at The Knowledge Society (TKS) | Writer for Start it up | Podcast Host | STEAM Student at RHHS

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