This post was originally published by at Medium [AI]
Since the start of the pandemic, new technologies have been developed to help reduce the spread of the infection. However, there are a number of issues.
Addressing the pandemic with IT
Ever since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, multiple public and private organizations across the world shut down in order to minimize the spread of the disease. As the end of the year approaches, some businesses and government offices are slowly resuming operations. These organizations are also observing safety protocols put forth by leading medical and scientific institutions, such as the WHO and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Some of the most common safety measures today include measuring a person’s temperature, covering your nose and mouth with a mask, contact tracing, disinfection, and social distancing. Many businesses have adopted various technologies, including those with artificial intelligence (AI) underneath, helping to adhere to the COVID-19 safety measures.
As an example, numerous airlines, hotels, subways, shopping malls, and other institutions are already using thermal cameras to measure an individual’s temperature before people are allowed entry. In its turn, public transport in France relies on AI-based surveillance cameras to monitor whether or not people are social-distancing or wearing masks. Another example is requiring the download of contact-tracing apps delivered by governments across the globe.
Issue #1. Manual temperature scanning is tricky
Since running a fever is one of the most common symptoms of the COVID-19 infection, most establishments now require a person to have their temperature measured before they can enter. Many businesses use noncontact temperature assessment devices to take measurements. This is usually achieved with personnel that are equipped with handheld infrared (laser) thermometers.
However, though the manual use of a single noncontact device enables businesses to quickly get a person’s temperature reading, this can generate long queues at an entry point. Besides, the use of handheld infrared thermometers still put people at risk of spreading the infection, because they are used in close proximity. There is also the added problem of handheld infrared thermometers being inaccurate and prone to human error.
Many of these problems can be solved with installing mass temperature screening systems—based on machine learning techniques such as face recognition—in public places. (That’s why we introduced AI-based Fever Screener this April, helping to reduce the burden on the medical staff.)
Issue #2. Monitoring crowds is even more complex
Even with mass monitoring in place, thermal scanning solutions may not be capable of factoring in external sources of temperature, such as ambient environments or hot cups of coffee. Other issues are associated with wearing accessories, influencing the accuracy of readings.
COVID-19 primarily spreads from person to person through droplets released when coughing and sneezing. Since this is one of the most common means of transmitting the disease, governments across the world are now recommending people to wear masks in public or when around others not living in the same household. In addition to masks, most areas have social distancing measures in place to further minimize the risk of spreading the infection.
To ensure that these safety measures are maintained, many establishments make use of surveillance systems with facial recognition capabilities to monitor crowds of people in real time. However, many face recognition algorithms fail to detect a person wearing a mask, a hat, or sunglasses. According to NIST research, this is due to previous models (in the pre-COVID era) being trained on data sets of people who were not wearing masks.
Issue #3. Contact tracing leads to privacy concerns
Although the CDC and the WHO have released guidelines for contact tracing, the implementation vastly differs from country to country. For instance, in most parts of Southeast Asia, contact tracing is done manually with dedicated teams conducting interviews with infected individuals. On the other hand, mobile applications are being developed in the United States and in Europe to digitize the entire contact tracing process.
Despite existing privacy regulations, governments all over the world have already developed their own contact tracing apps: Corona-Warn-App in Germany, COVIDSafe in Australia, and TraceTogether in Singapore, ProteGO Safe in Poland, etc. The governments are looking for some kind of a compromise between monitoring and privacy, tracking only those who gives a clear consent, while users are expecting that data usage is as transparent as possible. While many of these apps prioritize safety and are efficient for finding unreported COVID contacts, the issue of privacy is still an ongoing discussion.
Issue #4. UV rays harm eyes and skin
While COVID-19 primarily spreads from person to person, it is also possible for an individual to get infected when they touch contaminated surfaces and then touch their face. Because of this, it is very important to maintain regular cleaning and disinfecting procedures, especially in hospitals and other high foot traffic locations.
In order to preserve a safe level of cleanliness at all times, many establishments now maintain multiple cleaning and disinfecting routines daily. In the past few months, the constant need for disinfection has made ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI), a method that uses short wavelength ultraviolet (UVC) light, very popular.
Previous studies have shown that UVC light can be used to treat the SARS coronavirus. While UVC light can certainly destroy microorganisms, the scientific community has not yet concluded a specific dosage needed for COVID-19. One particular study noted that COVID-19 had the highest UVC dosage needed for deactivation among nearly 130 viruses.
For instance, Altoros equipped its UVC disinfection lamps with motion sensors and smart plugs, preventing any potential accidents by switching off when someone enters a room. (The same goes for our UVC Robots distinguishing humans from objects.) In addition, one can utilize solutions that can help businesses manage their cleaning and disinfection routines. E.g., our Manual Cleaning App generates QR codes that can be printed out and stuck to door surfaces, providing cleaners and visitors with detailed information on the status of room disinfection.
Issue #5. UVC robots are extremely expensive
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the UVC robot market was already predicted to increase from $171.8 million in 2019 to $1.46 billion in 2027. Now, with the ongoing pandemic, the demand for UVC robots has surged up, increasing how much each of these devices costs.
To get an idea of how much UVC robots cost right now, the Mobile Robot Guide recently released a special report featuring autonomous solutions for COVID-19. According to their report, the average price of a UVC robot is $53,000, while the most expensive cost $125,000. With the heightened demand for UVC lights, these prices can be expected to increase.
Even if resources were not an issue, ordering these devices is a challenge in itself, as deliveries can take months due to the high demand for UV lamps and other robotic parts. Additional shipping delays can also be attributed to the closure or heavy restrictions of some borders. When contacting manufacturers of robot parts this summer, our engineering team faced the situations like that—many of the suppliers were not able to cope with the growing amount of orders.
One of the recent initiatives to address this was UV Robot Design Contest by Micron Technology held from June to September this year, aiming at delivering a robot for less than $10,000.
Issue #6. Not integrated or noncompliant
While a particular business may be using one or more solutions previously mentioned, it is probable that some of the technologies are not designed to be integrated or compliant. For instance, some of the technologies or devices utilized in preventing COVID-19, may not meet security requirements—e.g., for its cloud storage—or lack an API.
Regardless of the safety measures in place and existing issues, innovations are already playing a vital role in the fight against COVID-19. By improving on existing technology, we can make everyone safer as we all adjust to the new normal.
This post was originally published by at Medium [AI]