Artificial Intelligence, Robots, Computer Vision, Infrared Sensing, Location Tracking, and Healthcare Innovations: these are few of the buzzwords trending for the past weeks. As countries still sweat to keep the rising cases in check, there are a few who have already flattened the curve. While western nations, from the USA to the UK are working on lockdown extension, investing heavily in research, debating on privacy laws, Asian countries are responding to the crisis in a different manner. Besides using the benefits of advanced modern science and technology, other factors help in combating the grave scenario. Not every country necessarily plays by the same rules, yet it is imperative to look and ponder about the steps taken by them to mitigate the pandemic. After all, it is the “humans”, the higher-order mammals who need to win the battle to restore normalcy and work for a sustained future.
Soon after WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Singapore prohibited travelers from mainland China in late January. Other incoming passengers had their body temperature scanned and immediately sent to quarantine to prevent transmission. They did the same in public places like schools, shopping malls, etc. Having survived the 2003 SARS scare, institutionalizing the lessons learned, the Singapore government already knew the benefits of funding the technological aspects to fight any future epidemic and pandemic instances. The open government data allowed detailed mapping of the outbreak and identify the hotspots. The country introduced an app called TraceTogether and request its citizens to download them. The app used Bluetooth signals to identify people who’ve been exposed to patients infected with the coronavirus. Similarly, Bahrain rolled out an app called ‘BeAware’. It allows residents to track proximity to someone with COVID-19 based on GPS. Affected people were mandated to use this app while it was optional for rest.
South Korea did not have any lockdowns expect a few public places. The key was maintaining transparency an enlightening public about the virus and its spread. Authorities were tracking potential carriers using the cell phone and satellite technology.
And like these countries, china too took advantage of big data and analytics to curb the spread. Further, the country used robots for sending medical aids, samples, medicines, and groceries to the mass. Along with that, China turned agricultural drones into disinfectant sprays to sterilize the areas. Strict surveillance cameras were used to monitor crowds at places that were under lockdown. These cameras in form of robots, UAVs, scanners, etc. urged people to stay at homes via attached loudspeakers, asked people to follow social distancing norms and issued alerts when someone was suspected to be a potential case or was not wearing masks. Recently, China developed a tech feature that uses color QR code to find people who are at risk and sent to isolation camps accordingly.
Without a doubt, artificial intelligence has helped Asia’s nation-states tremendously to tackle and weather down the coronavirus fire. In Saudi Arabia, the supermarket used AI to minimize delivery time. Even in United Arab Emirates usage of AI along with applied machine learning and blockchain to provide risk and symptom diagnosis to people. Nabta Health is one such startup.
Home to modern architectural wonder, Dubai uses ‘Oyoon’ to check for permits required by residents leaving their homes in the region’s business hub using computer vision software like facial, voice and license plate recognition.
Vietnam too was able to change the disease trajectory by implementing rigorous measures to deal with it. Installing disinfection chambers, mass testing equipment, test-kits that provided quick results, it managed to survive COVID-19 with causalities lesser than the developed nations. Taiwan too follows the same pursuit.
These are testing times. Even when figures continue to slow or fluctuate, neither of the countries deem itself safe yet. Under these conditions, one element that never failed was utilizing and investing in technologies to safeguard our lives and assist human civilization in the longer run.