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How can Artificial Intelligence contribute to controlling COVID-19 Pandemic?


The current lockdown situation caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic and number of infections vs recovered is no secret. Also, the sweat, blood, and tears put in by our Corona Warriors are well known and appreciated. What most people don't realize is that Artificial Intelligence technology has been working side-by-side with us, humans, to stop the spread of the dreaded Novel Corona Virus. Artificial Intelligence has been used to make new inventions or inculcated with the existing ones making them technically more advanced. This article explains how and where AI has been a part of the rescue work going across the globe to eliminate this catastrophe on humankind and restore our planet as we knew it.

Different Ways How AI is Already Helping Us to Tackle The Covid-19 Pandemic.

Artificial Intelligence Can Track the Spread of The Virus. 

To eliminate something, we must first know about its whereabouts.

Image Source: Bluedot

AI has helped us to identify the pattern of spread and potential cases of the Covid-19 infection, first reported by a Canadian organization known as BlueDot, which has created a program that uses AI to forecast the spread of diseases along with their location. In this case, the Bluedot AI released its predictions after the first case was identified on 31st Dec 2019 in China. This program is one of the most advanced combinations of codes that analyses over 100,000 reports every day from different hospitals breaking the language barrier and then alerting all its clients, including governments, businesses, and other health care agencies.

Another benefit reaped from using Artificial Intelligence was the use of smart glasses by security guards that were full driven by AI technology. This helped the guards to scan many people without making any contact as they were looking for unusually high body temperatures only, which is one of the significant symptoms of the COVID-19 infection. This saved time and effort of manually checking each person. Also, it avoided any risk of cross-infection due to the close contact between the guards and the public. This technology was used across China at bus and train stations and other public places, and only those with higher body temperatures were tested. Artificial intelligence played a crucial part in merging two different technologies of taking heat measurement combined with optical vision.

Artificial Intelligence Can Reduce The Burden of The Hospital Staff.

AI does the more workload; humans can treat the more infected.

Image Source: Freepix

One of the essential factors while treating any infected patients is to test them for the exact cause of their infection. In the case of the COVID-19 virus, manual tests consisting of Swab and Blood Tests, Nasal and Tracheal aspirates, and Sputum test are the only preferred ways carried out across the world. These methods have a high risk of cross-infection as a substantial part is obtained from the potentially infected person and then tested in the laboratory. This method also has a constriction on the number of patients that can be checked every day. Thus it is important to inculcate AI in hospitals with immediate effect.

Even though the health authorities of many countries want to increase the number of tested people, the limitation will always remain due to the consumption of extra effort, labour, and time. With the help of Artificial Intelligence, the existing X-Ray scanning technology can now check for specific patterns in the patient’s lungs and evaluate Covid-19 cases faster and without the risk of any cross-infection.

Artificial Intelligence Can Curtail The Connection in Hospitals 

It is essential to treat the infected but more important to keep the staff away from infection.

Image Source: Freepix

AI is just the software, and for hardware, we have computers, or we can even use the Robots. These Robots can be programmed based on Artificial Intelligence and help us to fight against the Covid-19 virus. The most important assistance that these AI programmed Robots can provide us is the reduction of contact between the infected and those trying to treat them. In order words, a robot cannot be infected by the novel coronavirus and can, at the same time, minimize cross-infection cases. These Robots are now used by many hospitals to deliver food and medicines to the patients, sanitize the rooms, toilets, and nearby areas quite frequently.

Image Source: Boston Dynamics

Robots can also be programmed to spray disinfectants on streets, parks, hospitals, and other places where there is a high concentration of people. China has already installed Robots to check people for fever and even have built-in sanitizers and disinfectants that spray and squirt gel when needed. In the US, an IT organization known as Boston Dynamics has produced a Robot Dog which is being used in hospitals. The doctors have found Man's Best Friend in Spot, a brand of Robotic Dogs used to scan patients and gather information, thus reducing contact between the health workers and the potential contagious cases. Elsewhere, Drones are being used to deliver medicines and other essential to potentially infected people in quarantine.

Artificial Intelligence is The Backbone Behind The Contact Tracing Applications.

Although not perfect, this method has saved many lives by alerting people.

Image Source: The Verge

The Contact Tracing Apps have made news as the name denotes invasion of privacy. Typically, this would have never been accepted, but a contact tracing app is being reconsidered concerning the current situation. Artificial Intelligence has a significant role in the success of these apps as it helps to determine the carrier of a particular cell phone number and tracks the location and, at the same time, alerts others nearby. These apps have already been implemented in countries like China, India, Italy, and Israel, to name a few. In the UK, an app is on trial, which claims to use Bluetooth Protocol to identify infected people and their location and alert others in the same area.

Artificial Intelligence Can Help Develop A Corona Virus Vaccine.

We will need machines to figure out a cure.

Image Source: FreePix

Developing a vaccine is a mammoth task with all permutations and combinations that must be calculated to make a perfect medicine that suits all despite the slight difference in our genomes. This development is done based on a huge data source that might be cloud-based, and the calculations would be beyond the capabilities of the computers which we use daily. Researchers have already begun using AI-based supercomputers to speed up computations and create model solutions for a probable vaccine. Some of the companies which have lent such supercomputers are Tencent, Alibaba, and Huawei.

Artificial Intelligence Can Help Provide A Response System During Crisis

Save as much as you can by providing the right information.

Image Source: Microsoft

Helping the infected recover is one aspect of a Pandemic; the other is to minimize the spread of the virus. And one of the best ways is to provide people with authentic information about the virus. For this reason, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has designed a Chatbot by the name of Clara. Clara is based on Microsoft's Azure services and is intended to guide people to identify if the symptoms they have are valid and what steps they should take next.

There are Chatbots designed, and even WHO has a bot of its own on WhatsApp services. As these bots are based on Artificial Intelligence, they are always in a learning mode, gathering information and analyzing them. The answers you would receive from them are based on the new data inputs and updates, also known as Machine Learning.

Artificial Intelligence Can Help with Voice Data.

When it comes to record voice, AI can play an essential role in designing a voice assistant to help doctors and physicians auto-complete clinical notes for patients due to time constraints. One such application designed is "Suki," which uses Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning concepts to understand a specific doctor’s way of treatment and preferences. It can also understand the context of the physician's practice and defines intent as well. The data that is gathered and stored is highly sensitive; it is encrypted with the best cryptographic measures to keep it safe. Currently, "Suki" is free to use for doctors, physicians, and other critical care clinics until the Pandemic comes under control.

Image Source: Saykara

Another product which is similar to "Suki" is "Kara," which is designed for iPhones. It is an AI-based voice-enabled application that can guide doctors and patients with concerns related to Covid-19. It also acts as a voice to text app, saving them time for doctors to update all records manually and at the same time, it can establish an interface with multiple charting systems. Charting during telemedicine will lead to the superiority and granularity of wellbeing data, available for novel and standard medicine. Kara is currently available for free use, which can be obtained with explicit permission from the parent organization.

Also worth mentioning is the EPIC app, which has an AL enabled voice assistant that monitors and stores all information for Covid-19. This database is then shared with partner organizations, and the larger the data source, the better chances for AI to function efficiently.

Artificial Intelligence Can Help with Capturing and Analysing Video

Image Source: Care.ai

It is very easy to record a video with the help of a digital camera, which is found everywhere. But if you include Artificial Intelligence, these cameras can act as optical vision sensors and detect abnormalities. A similar suite of applications by the name of "Care.ai" uses such tools to recognize faces, emotions, and certain features related to identifying health. These tools have been improved to take thermal readings and analyze them to conclude whether the person has a fever, discolouration, or sweating. One limitation of this tool is that it has to be always on to monitor patients' conditions and behaviour along with patient history and other administrative details.

Artificial Intelligence Can Help in Decoding Images.

Image Source: Behold.ai

There are several images involved in the field of medicine. Currently, images that include X-Rays, PET scan, MRI Scans, Computed Topography, etc. are manually being analyzed by doctors and physicians. Physical involvement is a risk when it comes to COVID-19 infection, and manual checking takes a lot of time and effort. On the other hand, if this data is fed into the computer, then the AI-driven software can analyze the scans and images within seconds and provide a report where the doctor needs to either approve or decide the next course of action.

In cases of the Covid-19 Pandemic, it is essential to teach Artificial Intelligence as soon as possible as this would speed up the process and help to gather huge data that can be used as a sample to understand the effects of Covid-19 and what preventive measures should be adopted. The larger the sample size, the more efficient it is as it covers more of the actual population.

One of the most remarkable processes in including Artificial Intelligence in the Hospital sector was taken by Behold.ai, which has innovated a new method known as diagnostic imaging. This involves studying the Chest C-Rays for patients with pneumonia and using deep learning to create a Red Dot Algorithm rather than developing Heat Maps on areas sensitive in the patient's chest.

Artificial Intelligence Can Help in Developing Sensors.

Image Source: Biovotion

Not all mild infected or potentially infected patients can be admitted into the hospitals as there are limited beds and spaces. Thus a practice known as Quarantine has been introduced, which is to keep patients separate in their own homes without contact with others in the same house. It is important to monitor these quarantine patients to check if their health is improving or deteriorating. For this very purpose, Biofourmis, an organization based in Hong Kong, made changes in its Biovitals Sentinel platform and its Everion biosensor that are more suited to check the patient's condition under quarantine at their homes. The sensors in question here can determine optical temperature, electrodermal, and many other measurements,  then collected and analyzed by an AI-based computer in the doctor's office.

Image Source: Ouraring.com

While most of the organizations out there are working on AI sensors to monitor patients, Oura ring has thought of something different and developed a sensor that monitors the health of the hospital staff, including doctors and physicians. This software gathers data from symptoms surveys from the biometric data and identify patterns of the start, progressing, and recovery in cases of Covid-19. Another research organization, Scripps Research, is working on wearable devices that can disclose more than pulse oxygen or heartbeat in a user.

Artificial Intelligence Can Help in Multiple Ways.

Not everything has to be big, even small AI applications and devices would be of great help.

Image Source: Freepix

One of the few devices that use Artificial Intelligence is EKO, which is an AI-powered stethoscope that can recognize different sounds inside the human body and identify abnormalities. One of the significant advantages of this device is that it is wireless and allows to maintain a distance between the doctor and patient, eliminating all cases of cross-transmission. The EKO cardiology can also be used to detect abnormal heart rhythms and monitor cardiopulmonary functions using telemedicine functions.

Apart from devices, specific applications like Cough for Cure can determine potential Covid-19 infected patients based on the sound of their cough. This will surely make the lengthier process easier, just as Pulse Oximeter can determine within seconds whether the patient needs to go for a Chest X-Ray.

The Final Word On How can Artificial Intelligence contribute to controlling the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Artificial Intelligence is a boon and has done humankind a great favor in dealing with this Covid-19 Pandemic situation. With all the new developments and advancements listed above, one can consider Covid-19 to act as a trigger on all the innovations making all the researchers and scientists work harder and faster. 

Without AI, the battle would have been tougher to fight, and the best part is that the possibilities of the use of AI in Healthcare services are endless. In other words, there is more scope and who know what advancements and developments we might see shortly with AI making a significant impact in defeating the

Covid-19 Pandemic. The world may never be the same as we know it, but it can surely be better than before.