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AI and the Fight Against Disease and the Coronavirus

How AI is helping fight COVID-19?

Content provided by Mira Rakicevic. Views expressed in this article do not represent the opinion of Synced Review or its editors.

Artificial Intelligence, though a nascent industry, is proving useful in the fight against COVID-19. Some of the applications, like facial recognition to aid surveillance, are things we’d expected. In this article, we’ll go through the ways in which AI is helping fight COVID-19.

While we’re focusing on COVID-19 specifically, we stand to learn much about the fight against disease in general.

Surveillance

We might not like the idea of our every move being watched. In Korea, though, public surveillance systems have been used to great effect.

Where does AI come into it? AI’s facial recognition technology allows it to scan faces in a crowd in seconds. The software looks for facial features that match the, for want of a better word, targeted person. When someone is diagnosed with the disease, their image is fed into the database. The computer then searches all surveillance footage for that person for a two-week period. The goal is to identify where they’ve been and any contacts that they’ve made. Korea credits its success in managing cases, in part, to this surveillance. The country also has a highly effective alternative to traditional contact tracing. When someone contracts the disease, they send out a message to all their contacts on the phone and social media. Those who feel that they have been in contact with the infected person then come forward for testing.

Is this the best option going forward? Judge for yourself; South Korea went from 1,062 new cases on the 1stof March to just six new cases on the 1stof May. By contrast, in the United States, new cases increased from around 64 a day to 33,007 a day over the same period. Privacy laws in the United States prevent the kind of blanket surveillance that the South Koreans used. Understandably, people have concerns over the technology being misused. In a crisis such as this one, though, privacy may come in as a secondary consideration.

Fever Detection

Here’s a case of something that sounds like science fiction, but that is a scientific fact. We’ve used thermal cameras for some time now. Before AI, we could use the thermal sensors in the cameras to detect higher temperatures. This came in useful to identify body heat behind walls, or in dark environments.

The use of the technology was limited because you needed a human operator to monitor the results. In the current crisis, that would prove impractical. Fortunately for us, AI can assist with this task. The computer identifies someone with a temperature that fits the criteria for COVID-19. It can then use facial-recognition software to identify and track the person.

Analyzing Data

One of AI’s big strengths is its ability to collect and analyze big swaths of data. We’ve already seen how effective this can be in the fight against cybercrime. AI is being used to identify and remove fake news about the virus. It also assists in identifying phishing emails and spam that is either loaded with malware or leads to a website that is. This becomes important in the fight against COVID-19 because some unscrupulous hackers target healthcare facilities.

During this crisis, successfully delivering ransomware to a healthcare facility means that bad actors can extort even more money. The ability to analyze data could speed the development of a vaccine. AI could scan millions of medical records, reports, and even anecdotal evidence on the subject. By identifying common threads, AI could point scientists to the most promising treatment options.

Robots Provide Useful Assistance

While smart homes make our lives more comfortable, smart hospitals may save lives. In some of them, they use robots to support those in quarantine wards. The robot delivers food and medication and can be used to sterilize rooms. This tech could prove useful in preventing local transmissions between healthcare workers and patients. Drones could prove another useful tool. We can use them to gather information, deliver supplies, sanitize areas, and identify people who are breaking quarantine rules. The use of drones does, however, raise privacy concerns, but that doesn’t stop them from being useful in the fight against Coronavirus.

Final Notes

AI is assisting in the fight against Coronavirus in numerous ways already. Developers are working on applications to make it even more useful going forward. As machine learning progresses, it’s possible that AI itself could come up with useful improvements. At this stage, AI isn’t necessarily capable of finding a vaccine on its own. It can, however, speed up the process through data analysis and progression models. It’s already helping researchers to sort through the evidence to identify patterns of the disease’s progression. AI could, with enough raw data, conceivably identify where the next big Coronavirus outbreak will be, identify the worst risk factors, and provide valuable insight on how to protect against the disease.
The lessons that we learn now will also help curb the spread of other diseases, such as tuberculosis, in the future.


About Mira Rakicevic

After obtaining a master’s degree in English Philology, a love for words and a passion for books inspired Mira to become a content writer at ComfyLiving. Since DIY projects and remodeling endeavors have always been her favorite pastime, she decided to combine the two and start a site dedicated to home improvement. In a way, decorating a room is the same as writing a compelling article. Finding a piece of furniture or decor that completes the look is just like looking for the right word that fits the context perfectly and sparks interest.

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