People have feared diseases since the beginning of time. As humanity changed and evolved, pandemics became more frequent. Pandemics such as Black Death or Spanish flu, SARS, and now coronavirus, justified the fear associated with such events. Viruses are invisible to the human eye and people can come in contact with them without even realizing it. 

But things are different today with COVID-19 than in the time of the Black Death. Scientists around the world have made significant technological progress over the years. Now, we have vast knowledge and amounts of data at our disposal. Moreover, the power of artificial intelligence is here to help analyze data quicker and more effectively than ever before.

People are more equipped now than in any other century to respond to diseases of this magnitude. The best example of how much technology has evolved was the SARS outbreak in 2002, where scientists took a year to decode the virus’ genome, while they only needed a month to do the same with COVID-19.

Aside from providing mental health services and sanitizing hospitals, the technology available today is also used in other spheres of life. For example, food delivery, mapping the infected population, and tracking if high-risk individuals are staying at home are all possible without people being in the front line. Here are the six ways that technology helps people fight against coronavirus in the healthcare industry and beyond. 

Satellite Technology

As with any other disaster, positioning technologies play an essential role for governments, agencies, and first responders. It helps them assess the situation with accuracy by pointing to the high-risk areas. Global Navigation Satellite System can help track affected areas and analyze the outbreak patterns, providing precise mapping and imagery. The other example is BeiDou, a Chinese Navigation Satellite System connected to drones that are further used for monitoring public places and gatherings.  

Aside from tracking and analyzing the spreading of the disease among residents, satellites can also be used to monitor hospitals and track other health facilities and their construction.

Last but not least, satellite imagery can help determine and examine the effects of COVID-19 on the planet. Many businesses around the world had to close their doors, which undoubtedly affected pollution, flora, and fauna and caused many changes around the globe. 

Robots in and out of Hospitals 

It turns out robots have a crucial role when it comes to fighting against COVID-19. Due to the progression of the novel coronavirus, robots can be used by health workers to measure blood pressure and oxygen saturation in patients on ventilators, without having to expose themselves to the risk. They are also used at hospital reception to interact with patients and to deliver samples to the laboratories. Some robots are equipped with UV lights or sprinklers used to disinfect hospitals. 

Besides hospitals, robots can be used to deliver food and medicine to people in quarantine or track and report those individuals who must remain in isolation without any human contact. 

Smartphone Apps 

The Chinese government, along with Alibaba and Tencent, has developed a health-rated QR code system that is used to track millions of people. When downloaded and used, the app assigns a green, red, and yellow color to users, depending on their medical and travel history. The color code decides on who should or should not be quarantined. 

Smartphone apps contain the most recent information and parameters, allowing people to talk to a chatbot and assess whether COVID-19 or other diseases have caused their symptoms. The chatbot can also provide advice about calling the doctor or taking over-the-counter medication.

Since nobody was prepared for the coronavirus pandemic, many people are now getting more anxious. Luckily, there are many mental health chatbots available today to help cope with the side effects of the pandemic and the fear that is associated with it. 

AI and Big Data

Artificial intelligence can be used to analyze big datasets and provide researchers with the information they need faster and with higher accuracy than ever. Therefore, AI presents an invaluable contribution to vaccine development since the algorithms work fast to predict the structure of the virus and its mutations.

AI can serve as a tool for determining diagnosis and improving patients’ treatments. The best example of how helpful AI is can be seen in the analysis of patients’ CT scans. When the researchers fed the AI algorithm with enough scans of both patients who tested positive and those who tested negative and medical data such as blood results, the algorithm became capable of diagnosing patients. Later it was fine-tuned to provide more accurate assessments. It’s as precise as an experienced radiologist, if not better, in cases where CT scans show no apparent signs of the disease.

Other examples of AI importance involve Baidu’s tools combined with an AI infrared system that helps scan large populations of people for changes in body temperature and Alibaba’s cloud-based COVID-19 diagnostic tool that allegedly has 96% accuracy. 

GIS and the Pandemic

The geographic information system is designed to capture, store, analyze, and manage all sorts of geographical data. It’s a way of connecting databases with maps, performing spatial analyses, applying spatial models, and displaying information. It’s beneficial in the fight against COVID-19.

The most common GIS app is the dashboard, which displays charts, maps, and other visual elements related to the COVID-19 pandemic, providing data almost in real-time.

GIS can be used to track, analyze, and inform about outbreaks and effects of preventative measures such as social distancing. It’s a valuable tool that helps with better crisis response, as it can develop many pandemic models and run different scenarios, offering projections about how certain decisions contribute to flattening the curve. The information helps improve the decision-making process as people can track the changes and react accordingly. 

3D Printing 

Since many hospitals had problems with the lack of medical equipment, people who own 3D printers decided to help. They joined forces and open-sourced 3D printing designs for anyone willing to give their support and assistance. It seems that different medical equipment can be printed: 

  • PPE 
  • Ventilators for milder conditions
  • Valves for oxygen masks
  • Swabs for sample collection
  • Hands-free door handles

With open-sourced designs, people worldwide can help hospitals and save lives, all from the comfort of their homes. 

Summary

Even though humanity is not in luck for facing the coronavirus pandemic, there is a certain level of solace because of all the technological advancements that can be used to fight it.  

Satellite technology is essential for tracking disease outbreaks. Robots are there to help medical workers avoid contact with the infected patients and to disinfect hospitals. Apps that people can download on their devices can become a tool to mitigate the effects of mental health problems during social distancing. At the same time, artificial intelligence is used for faster and more reliable data analysis. 

As hospitals worldwide are having trouble with the shortage of medical and PPE equipment, 3D printing has become an essential life-saving tool. While there are more significant technological advancements to come in the future, today’s story will remain in people’s minds as a reason to improve and grow, hoping that the next pandemic will be easier to deal with and overcome.