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How is AI being used in the fight against COVID19?

  • Mallika Rangaiah
  • Apr 02, 2020
How is AI being used in the fight against COVID19? title banner

Surfacing first in Wuhan, China in December 2019, in a mere matter of 4 months, the COVID19 has shaken the entire globe. With over 10,00,000 people now globally infected and the number of deaths near about 50,000 at the time of writing this blog, the disease has now overtaken the route of nearly all countries across the world as they endeavor to protect themselves from any more casualties.


With social distancing becoming the most obvious and imperative solution and people being quarantined to their homes in major corners of the world to prevent further spread of the virus, tensions are running high and authorities are struggling to reach a resolution and to do it fast. 


Despite this infection having surfaced in China, it was actually a Toronto based Canadian AI startup, Blue Dot, that detected the disease first. Being an AI based surveillance system for infectious diseases, Blue Dot forages through the world 24/7 on the lookout for any conceivable large scale infection spread. Such platforms make rich employment of the new and rising technologies such as AI, Big Data and Machine Learning in their search.


The agency detected a sign of a potential pandemic around December 30, 2019 and even warned its clients regarding the cluster of “unusual pneumonia” discovered in the vicinity of Wuhan. It was just 9 days post this that the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced an alert regarding the rise of the novel Coronavirus


The biggest serious red flag raised by the COVID19 disease is its ability to trigger community transmission. This calls for urgent massive research to garner all knowledge regarding the disease and its history to aid the world in its curtailment. 


As the WHO and United Nations dispense funds to expedite this research, various organisations across nations have turned towards Artificial Intelligence (AI) to aid them in their struggle against this disease. 


For a disease attacking the world in the 21st century, let’s see how a 21st century solution is being employed to spur its defeat.  



Application of AI in various nations to aid their struggle against COVID19


“AI and high tech in general have gotten something of a bad rap recently, but this crisis shows how AI can potentially do a world of good” -  Oren Etzioni, CEO of Seattle’s Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) 


  • In the case of China, the nation's Tianhe-1 supercomputer is facilitating free access to an AI detecting tool to doctors across the world which detects coronavirus patients via chest scans.. The supercomputer can forage through hundreds of images produced by computed tomography (CT) and provide a diagnosis in some 10 seconds.

The image shows depicts the telemedicine technology | Analytics Steps

Telemedicine Technology

  • Telemedicine is another area where AI has been employed to battle the virus. With COVID19 being a contagious disease, Telemedicine, which is supported by robots, enables the medical professionals to stay in contact with patients in isolation as well as garner important patient information, helping the doctors in treating them. At the Wuchang field hospital, for instance a ward had been staffed with robots powered with 5G for helping reduce the burden of the human personnel as well as to avoid contagion.


  • The Danish company UVD Robots has facilitated robots to Chinese hospitals for disinfecting rooms. These robots emit an ultraviolet light across an area for eliminating viruses and bacteria without jeopardizing any human personnel to infection. These bots are controlled remotely via a health worker who remains a safe distance away. 


  • In order to minimize human to human contact as much as possible Delivery robots were introduced by Tech companies like JD.Com who contributed to get more robots out in force for providing for instance, medical supplies within healthcare environments. These robots are also proving their worth in providing vital items to quarantined people who are purchasing online. For instance Meituan Dianping is a delivery app which is offering contactless delivery by employing autonomous vehicles and robots. 


  • The chinese multinational tech company Alibaba has also undertaken various AI rich initiatives and solutions to assist the nation in its struggle against the virus. This includes starting the International Medical Expert Communication Platform on the company ‘s DingTalk app which allows for verified medical members across nations to contribute their experiences via online messaging and video conferencing. Alibaba has also been employing robots in its warehouses and aiding in facilitating medical aid donations to areas of China such as Wuhan, which require them for testing and treatment of the coronavirus.


  • The Linearfold algorithm  generated by Baidu which interprets the secondary RNA structure of the COVID19 virus has been made accessible to scientific and medical teams fighting the outbreak. The virus lessens the time for overall analysis from 55 minutes to 27 seconds, making it 120 times faster. Alongside Baidu, Microsoft and Google in the US have also made some specific portions of their solutions free for qualifying medical members. 


  • As reported by GEN News in February, scientists from the Deargen firm based in South Korea published a paper that contained results from a deep learning-based model called MT-DTI which forecasted that out of available FDA-approved antiviral medication, the HIV drug atazanavir is the most possible of binding and blocking a prominent protein on the outside of the virus which causes COVID-19


  • Insilico Medicine, a Hong Kong based startup, as reported by TechnInAsia released a paper in February which, instead of aiming at repurposing available drugs, established the use of a drug discovery platform that produced tens of thousands of novel molecules with the capacity to bind a specific SARS-CoV-2 protein and halt the virus’s ability to replicate. A deep learning filtering system helped the firm simplify the list and the firm has synthesised two of the seven molecules and decided to test them in the following two weeks with a pharmaceutical partner.


  • Benevolent AI, a British AI startup, has also actively endeavored to recognize approved drugs that might halt the viral replication of COVID-19. As reported by Vox, the firm’s AI system scrutinized a large archive of medical information to recognize six compounds that effectively halt a cellular pathway which appears to grant the virus into cells in order to generate more virus particles. Baricitinib, used for treating rheumatoid arthritis, looks to be the most effective against the virus.

The image shows how drones are being applied to spray disinfectants and deliver public announcements across China amid COVID19 lockdown

Employment of Drones

  • Various Chinese firms have been employing drones for ensuring contactless outbreak monitoring. Shenzhen’s Pudu Technology, for instance, as reported by BBC has installed its machines in more than 40 hospitals around the country to assist the medical staff. 


The following video shows how Drones are being used across China to spray disinfectant and deliver public announcements amid the coronavirus lockdown :


MicroMultiCopter, another company based out of Shenzhen, is making use of drones for transporting medical samples and conducting thermal imaging.


  • The White House, on its part has encouraged AI experts to interpret a dataset of about 29,000 scholarly articles regarding coronavirus and use them for developing text and data-mining techniques to aid scientists answer various vital questions about COVID-19.


  • As reported by The Wall Street Journal, the Tampa General Hospital in Florida, United States (US) has also established AI in its struggle against the virus outbreak.  Care.ai, which is a software developed by an AI-powered autonomous monitoring platform for healthcare, was applied to diminish foot traffic in hospitals.This software is adept in carrying out facial scans for detecting patients with fevers, which in turn was able to cut down foot traffic in the hospital by 75 percent as per a statement by Tampa General CEO and President, John Couris. 


  • As reported by Times Of India, on courtesy of a private firm, recently a robot was transported to Sawai Man Singh Hospital for facilitating food and medicine to the Covid-19 patients sustaining treatment there. The robot was facilitated to the SMS Hospital on a voluntary basis for aiding the personal and doctors in maintaining distance from the Covid-19 patients. The robot has been created in such a way that it has a tray which is effective for ferrying food and medicine from one place to another. 





While it remains to be seen how positive and effective a development the AI technology will prove to be in the future, it cannot be denied that in this time of crisis, this 21st century technology has proven to be an asset in making the hassle more convenient and easier for the medical experts and personnel, as well as the nation. For more blogs on Analytics Do read Analytics Steps! Share this blog on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

Latest Comments

  • virajparab333

    Sep 12, 2020

    Great article! With the help of technology, we’re doing all we can to win the fight against COVID-19. This article discusses the use of bots, and AI to fight the virus. Let me know what you think! https://www.engati.com/blog/technology-fight-against-covid-19