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The tech on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19

By Ben Moore
Mon 2 Mar 2020
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, which was first reported from Wuhan in China on 31 December 2019, is continuing to spread across the globe with media coverage sparking panic among the populace of countries who are seeing cases emerge.

GlobalData has been watching the way that tech startups are working with government agencies, clinicians and academics to help contain the outbreak.

“China is becoming the largest testing ground to demonstrate how emerging technologies can be harnessed to improve epidemic management and minimise the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak,” says GlobalData disruptive tech analyst Venkata Naveen.

Insights from the Innovation Explorer database of GlobalData’s Disruptor Intelligence Center reveal various crucial use cases of emerging technologies to fight the coronavirus.

Analytics

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used to identify disease outbreaks as well as forecast their nature of spread. 

Canadian startup BlueDot used AI and machine learning to detect the coronavirus outbreak even before the Chinese authorities. 

Its AI algorithm analysed multiple sources such as news reports, social media platforms and government documents to predict the outbreak. 

Robots

Autonomous sterilisation robots are helping hospitals to contain the infections in quarantined wards by easily moving into a quarantined zone to sterilise virus without human intervention. 

Chinese medical robot developer TMiRob deployed 10 disinfection robots across major hospitals in Wuhan to contain the spread of COVID-19. 

Claims processing

Blockchain-powered services are helping hospitals to reduce the time spent on administrative work and allocate staff to the frontlines. 

China’s Xiang Hu Bao, owned by Ant Financial, is offering a blockchain platform to speed up the claims processing, reducing the need for face-to-face contact amidst the coronavirus outbreak.

Aerial delivery

Drones are gaining popularity as the fastest and safest means to transport supplies during disease outbreaks. 

Singapore’s AI startup Antwork has launched the first ‘urban air transportation channel’ to deliver medical supplies between Xinchang County People’s Hospital and the county’s disease control centre.

Chatbots

Chatbots are becoming the real-time information providers of coronavirus outbreak.

Japan’s startup Bespoke has launched a chatbot ‘Bebot’ to offer latest and reliable updates to travellers on the coronavirus outbreak. 

Accessed through a mobile app, it can answer queries on coronavirus such as symptoms, preventative measures and treatment procedures.

On the other side, China’s tech leaders Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent have also joined the fight against the outbreak. 

Baidu has open sourced its RNA prediction algorithm LinearFold to help researchers accelerate the time taken to predict the virus’s RNA secondary structure from 55 minutes to 27 seconds.

Alibaba launched a new AI-based system to detect coronavirus infection via CT scans with an accuracy of up to 96% in less than 20 seconds. 

Alibaba’s Alipay and Tencent’s WeChat released a feature to track individuals affected with the coronavirus using coloured QR codes.

“With coronavirus pushing China’s health system into turmoil, the country is deploying tech solutions like never before to overcome its worst crisis in years. The ongoing epidemic has once again reiterated how important emerging technologies are in predicting and combating the spread of infectious diseases,” Naveen adds. 

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