COVID19 – the disaster nobody suspected
We heard stories about famines and natural disasters from older generations and also experienced some ourselves. Nobody predicted a virus to take over the world and alter the course of everything around us. COVID-19 has taken the world by storm, with approximately 1,400,000 lives lost to the deadly virus. There is not enough evidence on the history of the virus and scientists, health professionals and affectees are all uncertain of how it must be dealt with.
People are getting affected rapidly, there is no certainty to what might help boost immunity and there is no vaccine! It is a disease that spread from the animal species and was eventually contracted by humans. There is no specific treatment to cure the disease and there are only supportive treatments that may help reduce symptoms. The only cure known to mankind is prevention! One must prevent themselves from contracting the virus, as there is not enough history to understand the course of action one must follow to cure themselves.
Many countries had imposed a complete or partial lockdown to prevent social activity that leads to the disease spreading rapidly. Initially, people chose to quarantine themselves within their homes but the disease has been around for over a year now since the first case reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
The statistics today, on 23rd November 2020;
- Coronavirus Cases: 59,030,664
- Deaths: 1,394,331
- Recovered: 40,792,784
It is not possible for a country to sustain their economy and society with people locked up inside their homes. Humans have proven extremely resilient to challenging situations and life had to resume to normal – the post COVID-19 normal. Malls began to fill up again, workplace and educational institutions reopened and people are beginning to step out again. There are no signs of a vaccine and all that people have to hold onto is preventive measures.
Under such circumstances, it can be said that Artificial Intelligence may be the saviour to prevent COVID-19 from spreading before a vaccine is made, tested and approved for mass usage.
Artificial Intelligence and COVID-19
AI technologies and tools play a significant role in the COVID-19 crisis management. It allows authorities and healthcare professionals in understanding the virus and accelerating medical research on drugs and treatments. They are able to collect data and integrate AI and Machine Learning tools to draw an analysis of patterns of virus spreading, its intensity, effectiveness of various treatments and predicting its evolution. It helps in adapting suitable measures that may aid in preventing or slowing the virus’ spread via surveillance and contact tracing. It also equips healthcare professionals in improving early warning tools and monitoring the recovery.
Some of the most significant AI tools and techniques;
- Monitoring Social Distancing amongst people in a certain location
- Softwares to monitor people wearing masks
- Softwares to monitor people wearing gloves
- Computer Vision to monitor stock and shelves at departmental stores
- AI and ML softwares to study medical data to aid drug manufacture
- AI softwares to track speed and spread of the disease
- Analytical tools to analyse medical information and study patterns of patient response to various treatments
As people resume going back to work or send their children back to schools, it is important to ensure that everyone maintains a suitable distance from one another. Revolve AI has designed a surveillance application that can be used to monitor people in a given location. The software is AI trained to detect any breach in adherence to the social distancing standards of procedure. For instance, two individuals at a four feet distance are considered to be in the safe zone, a two feet distance is considered as a caution and anything less than two feet away is considered a highly alarming situation. The application sends a signal to managing authorities if people in a certain location do not maintain necessary distance from one another. This AI software allows various institutions, like schools or offices, to resume functioning while also making sure that the virus is not spread from one person to another.
Revolve AI has designed the perfect solution to ensure that all necessary measures to prevent Covid-19 from spreading are being taken by people in a given location. These AI softwares are dependent on cameras installed in multiple places on a location that one wishes to monitor, for instance, a classroom, an office, a grocery store etc. Masks are an absolute necessity in preventing the virus from spreading from one person to another. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend face masks for slowing the spread of the virus. The CDC recommends cloth face masks for the public and N95 masks to be used by healthcare professionals. Revolve AI has designed the perfect solution to ensure that people wear masks, an AI based software that is able to detect whether people are wearing masks or not. In case of any breach in adherence to the mandatory SOPs, the application sends a notification to the managing authorities. The software is trained to detect other visuals like whether people are wearing gloves or not. It can be especially beneficial for people that must do jobs that require touching multiple surfaces that may be contaminated with germs, for instance healthcare professionals.
Computer Vision is a potent branch of AI that is able to decipher visual information in a manner that is similar to humans. Computer vision can help with ensuring availability of products by monitoring shelves and alerting management to restock when required. Initially when the virus broke out, there was chaos amongst the general public and people began hoarding necessities like canned food, tissue rolls and toilet paper, soaps, hand wash sanitizers etc. Suddenly the demand for hygiene products rose very high with not enough supply to meet it. Resultantly, some people especially those that were older, disabled or dependent on daily wages struggled to get their basic necessities. Computer Vision helps stores to ensure that each person buys only a limited number of supplies, leaving enough for others. It will prevent unnecessary panic and shortages.
The future of AI
Other than AI helping in prevention of disease, it is also a significant tool for using the right techniques to help devise the right drug or vaccine for COVID. It was a Canadian AI company, BlueDot that developed an AI program to predict infectious diseases and locate their source of origination and track their spread. BlueDot alerted the world about coronavirus after the first case was detected in China on December 31st 2019. AI incorporates text and data mining tools that can study the virus’ history, patterns of transmission, and diagnostics, management measures, and lessons from previous epidemics. Deep learning models are also a significant tool that help analyse old and predict new drugs or treatments that might benefit in treating COVID-19. Various institutions are benefitting from AI to identify treatments and develop prototype vaccines, for instance, DeepMind have used deep learning to predict the structure of proteins associated with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
To make the most of AI to deal with this health crisis, policy makers & government officials must encourage the sharing of information such as medical, molecular, and scientific datasets and models on mutually shared platforms to help AI scientists design effective tools for the medical community. To fully explore the potential of AI to combat COVID-19, it is important for policy makers and government officials to ensure that AI systems are reliable and secure. AI professionals working on a global health emergency must devise tools and techniques that are not only effective in preventing the virus from spreading but also considerate about human rights and privacy and accountability.
The latest AI technologies have really transformed technology and innovation in the modern world. Like everything else, AI too has some disadvantages along with its benefits but under current circumstances it is proving to be the only support humans have to rely on as the virus continues to spread across the world, until a vaccine is to appear.