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How AI is helping the world overcome the COVID-19 pandemic

How AI is helping the world overcome the COVID-19 pandemic 1

By Shawn Tan, CEO of AI Ecosystem Builder Skymind 

Over five million people have lost their lives to COVID-19, and the world continues to battle the pandemic using every bit of technological innovation available. More than ever, the world is harnessing the power of AI to address this critical crisis in terms of detection, comprehension and vaccination while democratising access to the methods that keep people healthy and safe.

The first area where new technology is making a notable difference is testing, which remains prohibitively expensive in many parts of the world. While test kits are free in the United Kingdom, in several countries, including Indonesia, tests can cost up to $60 (USD) and are difficult to source for anyone who is not presenting symptoms. In Malaysia, many people cannot afford regular testing as a PCR test can cost between $70 to $100.

However, a new AxialHealth Vpass is providing affordable and convenient testing. Through self-screening and dispenser machines through partner outlets, the Vpass means that a person can get tested for the price of a cup of coffee in under five minutes. A vending machine dispenses the test, and the individual downloads the Vpass app on their phone and enters their personal details, which are verified through passport upload.

Once the test has been completed, artificial intelligence is used to validate the results. Should the results be negative, the app will create a ‘green Vpass’ allowing people to travel and socialise safely. This means of accessible testing provides a more comprehensive understanding of potential outbreaks and allows pre-emptive measures to be taken to curb them.

Vpass is being launched in Malaysia, Singapore and Japan with plans for global expansion in 2022  across various retail outlets and vending machines. Its technology can also provide governmental and health authorities detailed insights on potential hotspots and outbreaks within specific sectors.

When it comes to strengthening comprehension of the virus, French startup Clevy.io has launched a chatbot making it more straightforward for the public to access official government communications around COVID-19. Using real-time information from the French government and the World Health Organization, the chatbot assesses symptoms and can reply to questions about government policies.

The chatbot can reply to queries and distribute accurate, verified information on everything from COVID-19 risks to managing the virus while alleviating the strain on healthcare and government resources. It has already been used to send more than several million messages.

Another area in which AI is facilitating progress is in diagnosis. Axial AI is a CT scan diagnosis platform allowing medical teams to quickly analyse the progression of the disease in patients with over 90% accuracy. The tool automates the analysis of CT Scan images in under ten seconds, accelerating the recovery strategy for infected patients. It has been used to help thousands of patients across Chinese provinces, including Wuhan and Hubei.

Axial AI gives doctors individualised and quantitative snapshots of the trauma unfolding inside the patient’s lungs, enabling medical staff to use ventilators and ICU beds more efficiently by tracking their effectiveness in shifting the patient’s probability of survival.

To prevent this level of medical intervention from being needed, another area where AI is making an enormous difference is through effective vaccine delivery. This comes with many logistical difficulties, including cold chain storage, which is needed to preserve the vaccine’s effectiveness.

Moderna’s vaccine requires a storage temperature of minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine requires a temperature of about -70C. Maintaining these temperatures is crucial. In response to this issue, Pfizer developed a special transport box around the size of a suitcase filled with dry ice and installed with GPS trackers.

Each reusable box can keep up to five thousand doses of the vaccine at the correct temperature for ten days, as long as it remains unopened. Keeping the container sealed is a crucial element of preserving the vaccine as they spoil if they get too warm or too cold and have to be thrown away, like any other perishable product.

AI Bluetooth intelligent mesh technology ensures that conditions remain under the desired temperature. A hand-held device is put into the box alongside the vaccine and tracks the temperature and location each step of the way, sharing the data with any Bluetooth-enabled laptop or mobile phone. This means the box does not need to be opened by a person at any point until the vaccination is ready to be delivered.

Measures like these demonstrate how AI is being used as a critical tool to support the fight against a pandemic that has affected millions of people in every part of the world. As the risks remain for a long time to come, these sophisticated tools continue to catalyse the route towards international prevention, recovery and resilience.

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