For the last few decades, we have been living in an increasingly connected world. Technological innovations in transport and communication have been bringing the world closer. Today, our daily functioning depends on an uninterrupted flow of services and information. Now, an unprecedented pandemic is threatening to bring the entire world to a stand-still.
As ‘social-distancing’, the Government imposed ‘lockdowns’ and ‘self-quarantines’ become common, it is up to technology, once again, to rescue us. At a time when humanity is battling an invisible enemy, here’s how technology has been our savior:
- Helping Fight the Spread of the Virus
In places like China, Taiwan, Iran, and South Korea, location data transmitted by mobile phones is helping track infected persons and their contacts. In Germany and Italy, it is helping identify the spaces where people may pick up the infection, by tracking the movements of the masses. Bluetooth devices on phones are being used in Singapore to trace who a patient may have come in contact with. In India, CCTV cameras helped the Kerala government track down over 900 people who had been exposed to a coronavirus patient.
People in UK can self-report Covid-19 infections through a mobile app. This is helping identify areas to avoid for the healthy population and slow the spread of infection. Another app is mapping possible high-risk areas for contracting the infection and alerting users in South Korea when they enter such an area. Apps by Alibaba and Tencent in China are using big-data algorithms to color code people according to their health conditions and travel histories. The codes are then being used by the government to control what kind of public spaces they get access to and keeping others safe from getting infected.
Smart Imaging is helping detect possible infections by taking the temperature of a large number of people quickly at transit points. Facial Recognition technology is being used in China to track people who are flouting infection prevention measures and not wearing masks. Drones with cameras and microphones are being used to make announcements in locked-down areas and address non-compliance to prevention guidelines.
- Aiding Medical Research and Supporting Medical Care
Thanks to technological advancements, decoding the genome of the novel coronavirus took only a month. The development of cures and vaccines are on a fast track because of technologies like supercomputers and cloud computing. Companies like Huawei and Tencent are providing such resources to medical researchers, making super-fast model simulations and sharing a huge amount of data possible.
Infra-red thermometers have become indispensable in detecting possible cases of Covid-19 infections. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is helping forecast outbreaks and diagnose the infection in seconds, making life easier for health professionals. Anti-bacterial Masks developed by companies like Sonovia are preventing infections. With AI, companies like Ant Financial, are processing health insurance claims faster and reducing the need for the hospital staff to have face-to-face interaction with patients. Drones and automated vehicles are being used to deliver food, medical supplies and other essentials to quarantined areas while robots are being used to clean surfaces at hospitals and other public places. Technology is enabling the medical community to care for patients without having to expose healthy people to the infection.
- Connecting Businesses
In the world of business, software that enables video-conferencing, screen-sharing, project management are creating digital workspaces and connecting all the stakeholders in the virtual space. Supply chains has become dependent on online coordination and automated delivery mechanisms. This is reducing the need for business-related travels and face-to-face meetings. It is also helping provide crucial technical support remotely, like in the case of a German air conditioning company which had to install machines in a quarantined region of China and did it through BlinkIn, a start-up company in Bengaluru which provides a visual customer care experience by using augmented reality technology. Technology has played a vital role in running businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Keeping Social Connections Alive
Living in isolation and the lack of physical proximity to fellow human beings has been an unfortunate consequence of the spread of Covid-19. This is causing mental breakdowns to a lot of vulnerable people around the world. Virtual social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and mobile chat apps are helping families and friends stay in touch, letting people reach out to therapists and support groups and keeping them informed about the latest developments. A German company called Flow Lab is helping users stay mentally fit by establishing mental health routines and providing audio sessions for stress and anxiety management.
- Simplifying Daily Living
The use of technology has pervaded all spheres of daily life since the coronavirus pandemic unfolded. From getting essentials delivered through online orders, to online banking, online bill payments for utilities, indoor workouts with online personal trainers and streaming and entertainment services to keep people engaged, technology has become integral to living our daily lives as normally as possible in isolation. E-learning and online classrooms on school websites and mobile apps are letting students learn remotely. Start-ups like Walkabout, is giving employees a simulated three-dimensional workspace, work with teams when they cannot physically collaborate in an office space.
Putting up a United Fight against the Coronavirus
Technology in the time of the corona pandemic is relieving overwhelmed medical systems, reanimating paralysed businesses, connecting disrupted supply chains, supporting humanitarian efforts, bringing individuals and communities together and keeping some semblance of normalcy alive in our drastically altered daily routines. Technology has made it possible to put up a united front during this crisis. In the face of an adversary that made separation necessary, it is technology that has kept us fighting this fight together.