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As the world continues to battle the novel coronavirus COVID-19, a deadly virus that has infected nearly a million people (and counting) globally – and already killed more than 30,000 people in more than 160 countries around the world – medical experts are looking to capitalize on artificial intelligence to help turn the tide against this global pandemic.
Millions of research teams all over the world are coming together to pool their data and their experience with COVID-19. The challenge, though, is in trying to make sense of all this data. Some have likened it to trying to drink a bit of water from a fire hose.
There’s just too much to make sense of everything without the help of AI.
Thankfully though, cutting-edge AI solutions already developed are being reprogrammed and retrained to recognize patterns throughout Big Data that can help us conquer COVID-19 moving forward. The United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and China as well as South Korea, Japan, and a handful of other nations around the world are already starting to make the most of all that AI has to offer and sharing their progress with one another.
How AI is Helping to Combat COVID-19
Below we dive a little deeper into how AI is helping to lead the fight against COVID-19 and how it’s likely going to be one of the key pieces of the puzzle that help us turn the tide against this deadly viral infection.
Let’s get right into it.
Disease Surveillance Through Artificial Intelligence
With a virus as infectious as COVID-19 it is critically important to have constant surveillance over how and where this disease is spreading.
Human activity is the number one root cause of COVID-19 spreading around the world, with individuals flying all over our incredibly connected planet and transmitting the virus – oftentimes without even realizing that they are acting as a carrier in the first place.
A Canadian-based organization called BlueDot has been working directly with the World Health Organization and the United States CDC to leverage their machine learning technology to provide a high level of disease surveillance aimed specifically at COVID-19.
This technology uses native and natural language processing to track, to analyze, and to map the spread of the virus of COVID-19, not only helping help organizations worldwide better understand where the disease is but also understanding where it is headed in the future.
Virtual Healthcare Technology
Artificial intelligence is also being used in the telemedicine world, an industry that has absolutely exploded in the last three months or so – and for good reason.
Artificial intelligence can be used with chat bot technology to provide automated health information and assistance in a way that just wasn’t possible in the past. The technology has grown by leaps and bounds and is right there on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.
Not only can these virtual medical experts provide specific diagnostic details to individual patients, but it can also provide information tailored to COVID-19 – including the ability to check and monitor symptoms and to advise individuals when they should seek out in person medical assistance (if necessary).
Diagnostic AI Solutions
The world has been developing faster and faster COVID-19 test kits, shrinking the timeline for testing down from weeks to days and now to just a few hours – with some organizations looking to create almost instant COVID-19 test kits that can be disseminated to the public at large.
AI has helped in this department, too.
LinkingMed, a biotechnology company based out of Beijing, has developed artificial intelligence solutions that can diagnose pneumonia with a 97% accuracy rating inside of just 60 seconds. This allows medical experts time to focus on other areas that demand their in-person attention while the machines using artificial intelligence figure out who’s sick, what they have, and the best course of action moving forward.
A lot of this diagnostic technology is being worked on throughout Southeast Asia and in the United States, with a number of groups committing to release much of it in and open sourced platform so that everyone can take advantage of the tech.
Facial Recognition and Fever Detection
Thermal imaging cameras have been used for quite a while in the world of medicine to help diagnose and detect individuals that have a fever.
Unfortunately, up until just recently that this powerful technology was handicapped significantly by the fact that a human had to be reviewing the data and information to determine who actually had a fever in the first place.
Today though, with the help of artificial intelligence, these cameras can be set up in public spaces – airports, hospitals, nursing homes, schools, shopping centers, etc. – and used to instantly analyze every single person that comes into the field of view.
On top of that, when paired with facial recognition software the artificial intelligence can identify who is running a fever at anyone particular point in time. Messages can be sent to that individual to alert them to their potential health risk, helping people get out ahead of serious issues that they may not have noticed they were dealing with yet themselves.
A number of startup companies, especially a British startup called Exscienta, have been leveraging artificial intelligence to produce new drug molecules that may be essential to establishing the cure that finally conquers this new coronavirus.
This startup in specific was the first company in history to create an artificial intelligence designed drug that was accepted for human trials, and they did so much faster than they would have been able to if the drug was designed by humans alone.
Compared to the five-year average timeline it takes for a new research drug to move through the application and approval process to get into human trials this drug created by the British startup was able to do so in just 12 months.
If we are going to corral and conquer this coronavirus as quickly as possible, not only coming up with a cure but also coming up with a vaccination to prevented from creating another global pandemic later down the line, we’re going to need to move quickly. Artificial intelligence can help make that happen.
At the end of the day, even though the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has caused a lot of pain, a lot of heartache, and a lot of devastation around the world – not only to the health and lives of individuals, but to the economy as well – it’s also brought us together as a world in a way that hasn’t happened maybe ever before.
We are all aligned together in this fight against COVID-19, working together, pioneering new solutions with one another, and taking advantage of major technological advances like artificial intelligence to help conquer this insidious virus once and for all.
It’s impossible to know for sure when we are going to beat COVID-19. It could be weeks, could be months, or it could be a year or more down the line. We just don’t know right now. But one thing is for certain – we are going to defeat this virus, and the odds are pretty good that artificial intelligence is going to play a major role in our ability to do exactly that going forward.
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