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Business News/ Opinion / Columns/  Can Artificial Intelligence help rein in pandemics? It seems that it can!
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Can Artificial Intelligence help rein in pandemics? It seems that it can!

AI in the healthcare industry is set to become a $36.1 bn market by end of 2025

Photo: iStockPremium
Photo: iStock

The present state of health emergency across the globe has led to a new wave of transformative technologies emerging as a possible solution to contain the epidemic. Bringing an array of fresh opportunities to tackle critical challenges, the revolutionary artificial intelligence is emerging as a prospective saviour of the day.

With new technologies and concepts taking shape every day, is it safe to assume that artificial intelligence (AI) will take centrestage in controlling such pandemics in the future? Yes, it is.

The Indian tech story

In India, the government has already launched an AI-enabled smartphone application called Aarogya Setu, which helps users check if they have crossed paths with patients who have tested positive for the coronavirus. The app uses the phone number of the user, along with the location data of the smartphone and matches his/her movements with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) data on the backend. The ICMR data already has the movements of patients who have tested positive for the virus.

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging innovators to share their ideas with the Union ministry of health and family welfare to help fight the pandemic, Indian startups are also coming up with innovations.

Staqu, a Gurugram-based startup, has launched a unique thermal camera that makes use of advanced technologies such as AI to track potential suspects. Using video analytics, Staqu’s technology could be a risk-free way to help identify coronavirus suspects as it helps avoid human contact.

India is witnessing a daily increase in the number of cases, and technology can play a crucial role in faster tracking of infections. As the coronavirus is highly contagious, it is necessary to track every individual that the infected person may have met, where such AI-enabled apps can contribute immensely.

AI leading the global fight

According to research firm Gartner, by 2022, smart machines and robots may fill in for some of the highly trained professionals globally. While the report indicates the replacement of some human workforce by robotics, there seems to be a non-anticipated advantage for us in these difficult times where robots can be providing services to infected patients. Thereby, keeping humans away from contracting the dreaded coronavirus.

Robots aren’t susceptible to the virus, so they are being deployed to complete many tasks such as cleaning and sterilizing and delivering food and medicine to reduce the amount of human-to-human contact. In China, robots are being deployed in the catering industry to serve more than 40 hospitals around the country.

Recently, Canadian AI firm Bluedot was gathering reports from around the world, tracking networks and air passengers to predict places where the virus can next spread. In the present scenario, the need for more secure, fast and efficient processes will merit the implementation of artificial intelligence. A tool built at Boston Children’s Hospital called Healthmap keeps a close eye on social media, procuring informational reports and data about infected cases via online spaces and chatrooms. Furthermore, it transforms data into useful insights displaying and forecasting the disease’s hotspots for organizations working to tackle the pandemic, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On the other hand, AI-based solutions from Alibaba research institute ensure proper diagnosis of potential virus patients, paving the way for AI in the medical industry. The AI system from Alibaba, which is supposedly trained with around 5,000 CT scans of coronavirus patients, claims 96% accuracy in differentiating cases of covid-19 and pneumonia viruses. Likewise, Baidu has developed a tool called Linear Fold, slashing the time taken in the detection of coronavirus from 55 minutes to 27 seconds.

AI in the healthcare industry is expected to become a whopping $36.1 billion market by the end of 2025. In fact, startups such as US-based Insilico Medicine have already started using artificial intelligence to rapidly identify molecules that could form the basis of an effective treatment against the coronavirus at the heart of the current outbreak.

In a global pandemic such as covid-19, technologies such as AI and data science have become critical to helping societies effectively deal with the outbreak. From sharing data, fighting misinformation, finding prospective drug molecules to identification, tracking and forecast of covid-19 outbreaks, technology is enabling it all!

Sanjay Gupta is the vice president and India country manager at NXP India Pvt. Ltd.

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Published: 30 Apr 2020, 11:41 PM IST
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