Latest technologies like automation tools, robotics and others hold huge promises enabling enterprises to drive their businesses efficiently. Already, these technologies have proved their transformational role in almost every industry, including from manufacturing to healthcare and retail. Now, some industry analysts expect robots could assist in combating future pandemics. Currently, in the case of the coronavirus outbreak, robots are playing a key role as most companies from hotels to healthcare systems are using them to avoid the spread of the virus.
Robots can be leveraged for clinical care such as telemedicine and decontamination, logistics such as delivery and handling of contaminated waste, and reconnaissance like monitoring compliance with voluntary quarantines. Even, robots are already deployed for disinfection, delivering medications and food, measuring vital signs, and assisting border controls amid Covid-19. More Chinese companies now are rushing to employ robots and automation technology as this deadly virus spreads throughout the nation.
For instance, in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, robots are used to spray disinfectant throughout residential areas of the city. Also, a patrol robot in a Shenyang, China, hospital checks temperatures and disinfects people and spaces. The use of this kind of robot at hospitals cuts down the demands of the medical staff.
As the outbreak of Covid-19 has now become a pandemic, and has affected over 170 countries around the world, it has now been asking that could robots be effective in combating the disease.
As epidemics heighten, the significant roles of robotics are becoming increasingly evident. During the 2015 Ebola outbreak, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation organized workshops that identified three broad areas where robotics can have a crucial impact. Those areas are clinical care – telemedicine and decontamination; logistics – delivery and handling of contaminated waste; and reconnaissance – monitoring compliance with voluntary quarantines.
Many of these use cases are being actively explored in China in the time of the Covid-19 outbreak, with limited areas and many as proofs of concept. Since frontline medical practitioners are still exposed to the pathogen with direct patient contact, a new hospital ward run entirely by robots has opened in Wuhan, China, earlier this month, in an effort to safeguard medical staff from contracting the virus. The robots deliver food, drinks and drugs to the patients, and keep the ward clean.
Though robots are not just used to deliver foods and medicines, they can also be used to take temperatures of people in public areas or at ports of entry, accumulate nasal and throat samples for testing, and perform as telemedicine assistants.
Remote presence robots could help in organizing meetings with others by standing in the place of someone, providing their presence through a video screen. Furthermore, they cannot only monitor patients and ensure they adhere to treatments, but also deliver much-needed social interactions.
As robots, in this pandemic, are lending assistance to frontline healthcare staff by delivering foods and medicines to patients, experts believe that they can come up with more functions in the future. For diagnosis and screening, mobile robots for temperature measurement in public areas and ports of entry signify a pragmatic practice of mature technologies. Moreover, automated camera systems are largely used to screen multiple people at the same time in large areas. So, integrating these thermal sensors and vision algorithms onto autonomous or remotely operated robots could help improve the efficiency and coverage of screening.