Amidst the current global pandemic, while we are witnessing new challenges and coping with uncertainty, technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Blockchain, etc. have become our ammunition to fight this war. There is a renewed vigor in companies and start-ups to innovate and build solutions that can help flatten the curve.
AI is playing a crucial role in propelling this innovation. The role of AI in mitigating COVID-19 is making a huge impact across industries and especially in the healthcare sector. A case in point is that of the University of Copenhagen that is leveraging AI to forecast the requirement of intensive care and ventilator support for patients in the early stages of infection. This is helping Healthcare workers plan and optimize the use of ventilators. This is just one of the many use cases of AI that is helping fight the pandemic. In addition to Healthcare, AI is also making an impact on other industries and verticals by solving various challenges like efficient remote working, supply chain disruption, and a lot more.
Here we have called out some major themes where the role of AI in mitigating COVID-19 has been critical.
A Canadian start-up, BlueDot, was among the first in the world to have identified the risk of COVID-19. It used its platform built around AI, ML, and Big Data which tracks and predicts the outbreak of infectious diseases and alerted its private sector and government clients early-on. Currently, they are sharing timely and data-driven insights which are helping their clients assess risks and prepare a plan of action.
As advised/enforced by various governments around the world, citizens are in the lockdown mode, practicing social distancing. While Chatbots and Virtual Assistants were originally designed to enhance the customer experience for the enterprises, they are now helping companies, and especially hospitals, assist people virtually and thus maintain the social distance. Hospitals are adopting bots that can not only answer the basic questions related to COVID-19 but people can record their symptoms and check whether they actually need to visit the hospitals or not. This has been made possible by new product launches and enhancements by AI-enabled speech-based companies like Orbita, Hyro, Avaamo, Stallion.AI to name a few.
Although governments are urging people to stay inside their homes and curb the spread of the virus, there are people who are not adhering to protocols and guidelines and are stepping out without wearing masks. Video surveillance solution providers are spotting such defaulters by leveraging computer vision algorithms. They are also incorporating thermal imaging cameras to help spot people with elevated temperatures and send pop-up alerts to users of the software. These providers are also clubbing the technology with drones for faster implementation.
To accelerate the drug development and testing methodologies, some companies are launching AI-powered dashboards for healthcare professionals where they have access to a reservoir of global data and insights that can help them in their research activities. For e.g. Benschi gave scientists critical data to help them select antibody, RNAi, and protein reagents for more successful experiments. Another example is that of Innoplexus’s Ontosight®, an AI search platform, that is researching new molecules and combination therapies in silico.
Before the COVID crisis, AI-enabled scans had been very successful in assisting doctors to reach a more accurate diagnosis in much lesser time. And now when healthcare workers are struggling for time, hospitals are using AI-based systems to detect COVID-19 for chest CT or X-ray scans. University of Sydney-affiliated start-up DetectED-X has repurposed its breast cancer diagnosis tool to help doctors and radiologists diagnose cases of coronavirus faster and more accurately with its free cloud-based CT scan technology. As AI’s performance depends on the amount of data fed into algorithms, these solutions will improve continuously. After analyzing 5000 cases, Alibaba claims that its new solution could identify differences in CT scans between patients infected with the novel virus and those with ordinary viral pneumonia with an accuracy of up to 96%.
In industries other than healthcare, AI-based call center solutions are helping the enterprises. The Travel & Hospitality sector has taken the worst hit because of the crisis and their customer service centers are experiencing an unprecedented uptick in the overall call volume. Here AI-enabled IVRs are aiding the limited remote workforce in managing the traffic.
LivePerson, a global tech company that develops conversational commerce reported that its overall conversation volume has increased by 20% in the last month with verticals like airlines and hotels experiencing 96% and 130% increase in conversation volume, respectively.
In the month of March, Teams software saw an increase of 500% in traffic and Zoom topped the charts on app stores in the US. The crisis has made remote collaboration the new normal. AI is helping in enhancing remote collaboration with the addition of sub-use cases like meeting transcription, facial and voice recognition of speaker, etc.
In these trying times, people are relying on the news to stay updated about the current happenings around COVID-19. However, the circulation of fake news on social media and other platforms is marring the governments’ efforts to curb the panic that is already there. AI is helping verify news and its credibility. For instance, Cornell University researchers have developed an automated system, called CoronaCheck, that uses machine learning, data analysis, and human feedback to automatically verify statistical claims about the new coronavirus.
With social distancing and remote work, people don’t have to commute anymore, which in turn gives them the time to upskill. AI-related upskilling being one of the most coveted technology courses will attract a large section of people. Major tech players are also taking initiatives to provide free training and certifications to their employees so that they can focus on self-development. Prominent Ed-Tech companies like Udacity, Simplilearn, and Coursera have also made their AI-related courses free.
Mixed Reality, which comprises of Augmented reality (AR) and Virtual reality (VR), is enabling industries to carry on their operations and training remotely. Bengaluru start-up BlinkIn’s products that leverage AR was used by the German ventilator company Huber & Ranner to provide visual guidance from Pocking in Germany to hospital staff in Wuhan to install medical equipment. Imaginate, an AR-VR company’s CEO said that the demand for its solutions has jumped more than two and a half times in the last month especially from manufacturing companies that need to constantly train their staff but may not have the option to send physical trainers anymore.
With employees working from home en masse and companies quickly adapting to this new way of working, we believe that AI will have a bigger role to play in the near future. Here are some AI trends that will define the post-COVID era:
The human race has withstood several plagues and pandemics. It’s the uncertainty that such crises bring with them, which becomes a challenge for companies. Is this the new normal? What will a post-COVID world look like? These are the questions that are giving executives sleepless nights. But, we are resilient and resourceful, and together with technology at the forefront, we can emerge victorious.