AI, big data, infotech deployed against COVID-19

9/3/2020

Original link by SciDev.Net’s Asia & Pacific desk

Technology is now being utilised for the detection, diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19. Copyright: Pau Colominas, CC BY-SA 4.0. This image has been cropped.

[MANILA] While the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) necessitated postponement of celebrations for the first World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development in Paris on 4 March, a range of engineering innovations are now being brought to bear on the virus.

“[The event] is an opportunity to celebrate engineering and its vital role in delivering sustainable development worldwide, and champion the next generation of innovators,” said Gong Ke, president of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations, in a statement on the celebration of World Engineering Day.

“Engineers are the world’s problem solvers, yet engineering is often overlooked or under-appreciated as providing the solution to major challenges such as climate change, digitalisation and food security,” he said.

“Engineers are the world’s problem solvers, yet engineering is often overlooked or under-appreciated as providing the solution to major challenges such as climate change, digitalisation and food security”Gong Ke, President, World Federation of Engineering Organisations

Robotics have been deployed in countries across the globe to sanitise hospitals, some of which use ultraviolet radiation to minimise health workers’ exposure to the virus. In China, ground zero of the viral outbreak, robots are being used in hospitals to deliver food and medication, take patients’ temperatures and sterilise rooms. Drones are deployed to transport supplies, spray disinfectants and do thermal imaging. Police officers wear smart helmets with facial recognition technology and infrared cameras that automatically reads body temperature.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is also being used to diagnose COVID-19 infection. ‘Infervision’, software that automatically detects symptoms associated with COVID-19 on CT scan images, makes diagnosis quicker and reduces human error. “This system helps doctors save valuable time and increase accuracy of judgment,” says Ming-Ming Cheng, professor, College of Computer Science, Nankai University, China.

Innovations are not just limited to robotics and diagnostics. Data science is also contributing to the efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Johns Hopkins University has a global map showing the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the world based on official reports. Healthmap, an initiative of organisations such as Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital and Northeastern University, takes a similar approach, although it also factors in social media posts when data mining. Event Horizon features a mathematical model that projects where the virus may spread based on international flight routes.

“Data can help in managing population movement and contact and detect and quickly isolate sources. Big data and information engineers have been playing an important role in this regard,” Gong says in an interview with SciDev.Net.

Gong says that engineers are now working with scientists and doctors to develop a more efficient and convenient method for COVID-19 testing, as well as in testing drugs that can potentially be used to treat COVID-19.

Collaboration was also emphasised by Kathy Renzetti, executive director of the US-based non-profit DiscoverE, in her statement on the celebration of World Engineering Day. “Solving the world’s problems is an enormous collaborative undertaking involving both the public and private sectors and extending across disciplines, borders and demographics.”