21-23 Jul 2021
ICC SYDNEY, DARLING HARBOUR

A Modern Pandemic – How is Technology Helping in the Fight Against Covid-19?

Apr 6, 2020 Industry News

Humanity as a whole is faced with a health threat of unprecedented proportions. We know that today’s global economy combined with unrestrained international travel and increasingly overcrowded metropolises may have contributed to the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, just as Covid-19 is a ‘novel’ coronavirus, so we are seeing new technological innovations developed and implemented all around the world to fight the epidemic.

We know that COVID-19 has a higher transmission rate than regular influenza and a longer than usual incubation period of up to 14 days, and many asymptomatic patients. As such, containing the spread of COVID-19 presents a unique challenge. One that is being met with modern technology.

Innovative tech to meet new challenges

In China, drones are being enlisted for everything from temperature detection and disinfecting public spaces to getting deliveries to remote locations, as well as monitoring compliance with lockdown and wearing of masks. They are also being used in France to monitor public places and enforce lockdowns, with police forces in the UK planning to follow suit. In Spain, speaker-drones are instructing people to stay inside.

We’re also seeing widespread implementation of robots, carrying out critical tasks that could put their human counterparts at risk. A collaboration between Siemens and Chinese firm Aucma saw a prototype disinfection robot produced in just one week, that will soon be put to work in hospitals. Using double misting guns, it can disinfect 20,000 to 36,000 sqm an hour and is controlled remotely via a top-mounted omnidirectional camera platform that transmits videos and information in real-time. A combination of remote control and intelligent algorithms enables the operator to remotely locate and disinfect affected areas.

Also in China, 5G police patrol robots are carrying out disease prevention operations. Using 5 high-resolution cameras and infrared thermometers they can scan 10 people at once, taking temperatures within a 5-metre radius. If a high temperature or absence of a mask is detected, then the relevant authorities are notified. Denmark-based UVD Robots have developed a robot that kills 99.9% of viruses and bacteria with UV light in just 10 minutes and has been ramping up production to ship these around the world.

You can see some more incredible examples of robots being used to fight COVID-19 here.

Shara Evans, highly regarded as one of the world’s leading futurists, believes measures such as remote temperature scanning could become commonplace even after the COVID-19 crisis is over, leading to greater adoption of intelligent health screening:

“I think the use of IoT devices to determine if someone might have a fever via thermal imaging technology before they enter a building or an airport is going to become much more widespread. Going forward we may see this, and other advanced healthcare detection solutions, integrated into venue access control.”

“One of the great advantages to this could be early intervention through the detection of health issues when people are still asymptomatic. However, the value of these potential positive health outcomes must be evaluated against the implications of sharing our personal information, the security of any personal information that’s stored, and equally important, maintaining our privacy protections.”

Shara is particularly concerned that the benefits of using sophisticated AI solutions be weighed against privacy and personal data security in order to ensure it does not impact our democratic freedoms.

“Technology is neither inherently good or evil. It is the way it’s used that determines this.”

Balancing act between protecting our health and our privacy

Aggressive surveillance tactics, including facial recognition, GPS and personal data tracking appear to have been implemented with some success in China, South Korea and Singapore to help stem the spread of COVID-19. This has allowed authorities to trace whom infected persons have been in contact with, as well as enforce strict quarantining measures. In some countries where stricter protections around personal data and privacy prevent these kind of measures, healthcare systems have seen higher demand as they cope with high rates of infection.

“AI can crunch through massive data sets to find solutions to fight this pandemic, but we must not lose sight of some of the unintended consequences of allowing governments access to our personal data in this way.”

“These are extraordinary times and as such require extraordinary measures. However, in order to protect our democracy and civil liberties, any tracking measures put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19 must be done on a temporary basis and should be rescinded once the crisis is over.”

And from a security perspective, what does she think the long-term implications will be?

“I think the coronavirus pandemic is going to change our society forever.”

“At the very least, it has spurred many companies to deploy technologies that allow staff to work from home. From a quarantining and personal work time flexibility perspective this is great. However, it also opens up many new cybersecurity risks, as many people do not have even basic cyber security systems in place in their home, and cybercriminals are already finding new ways to exploit videoconferencing systems, as well as coming up with all kinds of COVID-19 related scams. The Security Industry will need to help educate the general public on how best to protect themselves in an easy to understand manner – using tools that are easy to deploy and manage, as well as developing new biometric and AI-based solutions to protect people’s health and security. Even without the current pandemic, I’ve been forecasting that security will be a growth industry. And, with current events acting as a catalyst, this will only accelerate the need for security industry products and specialists.”

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Shara Evans is a technology futurist and is globally acknowledged as a keynote speaker and widely regarded as one of the world’s top female futurists. You can find out more about Shara and her work on her website.

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