Technologies and Innovations to Defy Pandemic Disasters
Published on : Thursday 14-05-2020
Cdr Jacob J Koottummel (Retd) quotes examples of how tech companies in China joinedgovernment efforts to contain the Corona pandemic.
Call it Wuhan Virus, Novel Corona, or Covid-19. How the world has changed in one month. 14th Feb – Valentine and 14th Mar – Quarantine. Over 10000 deaths till date (20 March 2020). The pandemic reached almost every corner of the world in a matter of weeks, spreading exponentially over-subscribing every medical infrastructure. Heads of nations, VVIPs and key officials testing positive. Staff breaking down. Numbers still not under check. No treatment. No vaccine. World under lockdown. Infected and healthy in quarantine. Panic like never before. For the first time in living memory, our life, livelihood and health under threat. Major economic slowdown looming large. Scary?
The sudden emergence and exponential spread of Covid-19 is a testament of the power every invisible enemy of the future holds. Covid-19 scare certainly, therefore, offers an opportunity like never before, for the testbeds of digital tech that can prevent such pandemics. This rare prospect can also offer several insights into how innovation and technology are better equipping us to handle public health emergencies and contain the spread of diseases – much swiftly. Are we waiting for a better occasion to call the services of the nation's tech sector to help battle against this invisible enemy?
Look East for basic start? As countries around the world grapple with the Covid-19 virus, China and Taiwan can offer valuable lessons on how to curb the spread of an epidemic using innovative technologies and pioneering processes. They have clearly demonstrated and proved to the world, how emerging technologies can be harnessed to improve epidemic management and minimise the economic impact of such virus outbreaks and health emergencies.
Chinese survival technologies
Utilising the opportunity offered by the Wuhan virus, China has brought some of their technologies out of the shadows, providing the authorities with a justification for sweeping practices of high-tech social control. When the authorities realised that the Covid-19 is pushing their health system into turmoil, the Chinese industry ministry had sent a notice to its AI companies and research institutes, calling on them to assist fight the epidemic disaster. Most companies have responded with a flurry of announcements touting the capabilities of their technology. Here are few examples of how the private sector has joined hands with the government of China to contain the Corona epidemic, bringing a big boost to their technology industry.
a) Facial recognition firm Megvii offered its new way to spot and identify people with fevers. They also provided their ‘AI temperature measurement system’, which detects temperature with thermal cameras and uses body and facial data to identify individuals.
b) SenseTime, another AI firm, installed almost similar systems at building entrances, which can even identify people wearing masks, overcoming a weakness of Megvii technology.
c) Chinese policemen have been equipped with RoboCop-style artificial intelligence helmets which can automatically identify people who could have the coronavirus. The helmets are powered by AI and are fitted with a camera which can scan the body temperatures of anyone within a five-metre radius. The device can reportedly record the temperatures of over 100 people in under two minutes. (https://youtu.be/UgNlO19ov64)
d) Surveillance camera firm Dahua supplied infrared cameras that detected fevers to an accuracy within 0.3ºC.
e) Another company helped authorities in retrieving all necessary and relevant information about each infected passenger movements, including the train number, compartment and seat number including the information on co-passengers who were close to that infected person – such as people sitting three rows of seats before and after the person.
f) Moving a notch further, mobile phone apps informed the users, if they have been on a flight or a train with a known Covid-19 virus carrier, and live maps showed them the building locations, where infected patients live.
g) Telecom companies have energised Cell Broadcast (CB) messaging, to alert the public when they are about to step into cell coverage of the infected. Through the same technology, they have also been informed, if they are in a safe zone or stepping out of their quarantine area.
h) The Chinese government has also enlisted the help of tech giants like Tencent and Alibaba, to simplify Chinese ID verification procedures at checkpoints. The users of WeChat and Ali-Pay has been assigned a QR code based on a traffic light colour system which instructs them about how long they need to be in quarantine, or if they should be quarantined or allowed in public.
i) Further, these codes are being used to notify people in buildings about a person’s health status, and travel permit for movements, etc.
j) Using bigdata, several companies have introduced apps that inform you, if anyone around is a risk.
k) Drone suppliers integrated Public Announcements system with Pan-Tilt-Zoom cameras and provided them to police and first-responders for patrolling walkways warning pubic to wear masks and to remotely scan their ID. (https://youtu.be/PwBhn18HSiQ)
l) Similarly, agricultural drones were redirected for spraying disinfectants in affected areas, without risking human exposure.
m) Alibaba outsourced their drones to deliver crucial medical supplies, to remote or quarantined areas.
n) Dubai Police is using a smart helmet that uses thermal screening on people using public transportation in the emirate in a step to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The helmet can scan in seconds the temperature of people who are using public transport in Dubai.
Here are some additional innovative technologies that have already proved its success in China while dealing with the Wuhan pandemic disaster: https://youtu.be/r9VeCmM8--4
After an illustrious career and experience of over 23 years in the Indian Navy, Cdr Jacob J Koottummel took premature retirement in 2010. As technology and security evangelist, he held various senior technical management jobs at Command Headquarters and was exposed to the highest levels of strategic planning and decision making while working as the Chief Information Security and Communications Advisor for the Commander-in-Chief. Cdr Jacob J Koottummel (Retd) holds a unique distinction for being in an indispensable command chair, for over eleven years, at a stretch, working almost as the Solution Architect for various critical Telecommunication and Security related projects not only for Navy, but also for its sister services and the strategic tri-service organisations.