Stats related to COVID-19 change daily. Every hour there’s something new unfolding. Without a doubt, this pandemic has totally disrupted our lives beyond comprehension. It has affected our mental state, our business, and has brought the world to a halt to some extent.
And the worst part is, it’s unclear how the virus will affect our future. No one really knows how long this crisis will last. But with the breakthrough in modern technology, it seems like artificial intelligence (AI) might be able to help us in detecting, predicting, and preventing the spread of the Novel Coronavirus.
And I’m not just making this up out of nowhere. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported just last month that AI and big data are proving to be vital solutions in tackling the virus. Keeping this in mind, in this article, we’ll explore how machine learning is helping us in detecting and combating the Coronavirus.
Using AI to detect, track, and predict the spread of diseases
Through pattern matching and sophisticated machine learning algorithms, AI can accurately predict the spread of any potential outbreak. That’s exactly what health officials are using to track the spread of COVID-19.
One of the most prominent players that have been developing powerful disease risk prediction systems is BlueDot. Their system was the first to predict the spread of the Coronavirus in China back in December of 2019.
Basically, BlueDot’s artificial intelligence system scans around a whopping 100,000 articles online daily in 65 different languages and filters out anything related to a potential outbreak. [source]
Even for a workforce of thousands of humans, this job would be near impossible. Yet, AI can create complex mathematical models that can accurately describe all the evolutionary phases of any virus outbreak.
Using AI to sniff out COVID-19 in public places
For a human to detect who might be carrying COVID-19 in public places like train stations would be near impossible. However, for tech that’s powered by AI, It’s a super easy task. That’s why countries around the world are using AI-powered cameras equipped with thermal sensors to pinpoint any individual with a high fever.
One of the prime examples of this technology being used on mass scale is in China. The technology developed by Baidu, which is one of the most prominent tech giants in China is now being used in pretty much every train station across China.
Sure surveillance poses privacy risks as suggested by The VPN Experts in their timeline of online privacy, but it is still proving helpful as evident by the decline in the number of COVID-19 reported cases in China.
Their AI-powered infrared sensors and cameras are so smart, they can not only detect individuals with high body temperature but also inform the authorities if anyone is found outside violating quarantine through facial recognition. [source]
Just to give you a perspective of how effective AI is proving to be in fighting COVID-19, Baidu’s virus detection system can record temperature readings of two hundred individuals in just one minute with an accuracy of just ± 0.5ºС.
Using AI to find a cure for COVID-19
As of now, there’s no cure for COVID-19. There are no vaccines or medicines that can cure the virus. However, that might not be the case in the near future thanks to the advancement in machine learning and big data.
Numerous tech companies are offering powerful computing resources to researchers so that they can speed up their findings and create a models that can potentially yield a cure for Coronavirus. Tech giants like Tencent and Huawei are all pitching in to perfect their technology.
Even Google and Apple have joined forces in developing a COVID-19 tracing app to help public health agencies (PHAs) around the world.
Basically, Apple and Google will be providing APIs to PHAs who can then develop their own tracing apps. So far, 22 countries have requested their API. Even WHO is expected to use Apple-Google tech for its tracing app. [source]
COVID-19 is not just a disease, it’s a global phenomenon. It is forcing people to evolve, embrace change, and develop new and cutting edge technology to prevent such outbreaks from happening in the future. After all, we just can’t risk another pandemic.
While there’s a lot of speculation that tech giants are only just using COVID-19 as an excuse to hoard mass personal data, I personally believe that fighting COVID-19 with the help of big data and machine learning is the only rational option we have right now.