IoT: Powering the New Normal


While digital infrastructure might not be the cure to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, it is undoubtedly helping the world cope in many ways. More and more, governments, enterprises, healthcare, and even the education sector are using the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) to autonomously fight the effects of the pandemic as it continues to spread globally.

Here are six ways IoT and AI are helping curb the pandemic:

Many workplaces are using wearable devices for contact tracing and monitoring the health of medical personnel and patients. A contact-tracing device includes passive GPS location tracking and proximity sensors powered by Bluetooth® and ultra-wideband connectivity, a rechargeable battery, and built-in Long Term Evolution (LTE). Wearers can update their health status to indicate whether there is any potential or verified infection, and the devices will notify people they have been in contact with, based on location history. A centralized system in the organization can use this information for a full health dashboard in the workplace.

A wearable that monitors the health of practitioners and patients — even patients at home — uses the same concept. A sensor applied directly to the wearer’s body monitors real-time temperature change. The device transmits data wirelessly to a nurse’s station for continuous monitoring. Through this capability, the nurse can monitor and manage more patients who are at home, preserving hospital capacity for those at higher risk.

Assistive Drones
In the unprecedented push to reduce human-to-human contact, drones are helping prevent the spread of the disease. Drones are the safest way to deliver medical supplies and groceries to locations with high rates of infection, monitor quarantine areas for movement and congregation of people, and perform thermal scans to monitor the body temperature of people in a specific location. Agricultural drones carry out tasks such as spraying disinfectant in potentially affected areas. They are easy to operate and can help reduce sanitation workers’ risk of exposure to the virus.

Integrated Facial Recognition, Temperature-Sensing Systems, and Contactless Access Control
Reducing human touch points is critical to slowing the spread of the virus. For healthcare facilities and other major sectors hit hard by the pandemic, embracing IoT technologies is one way to improve the safety of patients, executives, and administrators.

An advanced facial recognition system, combined with a cloud-connected thermal imaging device for temperature monitoring, is useful to identify someone with a high temperature. The integrated system can link to an IoT sensor-enabled door to restrict access to anyone who might be infected. This contactless system allows companies and businesses to avoid the contamination caused by finger-based biometric sensors.  

Optical Biosensors
Because COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, air quality is a significant concern during the pandemic. The goal is to stop the spread of the virus, which people can contract through the air or surfaces. Harmful particles like the coronavirus are so small that they might pass through traditional HVAC filters. Crowded public spaces can use a new optical biosensor to measure the concentration of virus in the environment in real time. This technology will be able to provide an alternate and reliable solution to clinical diagnosis and continuous monitoring.

Contactless Payment
Many countries are still behind in the adoption of contactless payment systems and prefer to use cash and debit / credit cards, despite the digital payment revolution. Contactless payment has been around for a while. China widely implemented contactless mobile payments even before the pandemic and ahead of developed countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States. Wireless technologies such as near field communication and Bluetooth® are enabling huge opportunities in the contactless payments space.

Artificial Intelligence-Based Research
To date, the pandemic has spread to 213 countries and territories around the world, with nearly 18 million confirmed cases and close to 6 million active cases. As research details emerge, the data pool will grow exponentially. The amount of data will reach a point where it is beyond a human’s capacity to make sense of it. Scientists, doctors, and clinicians who work with patient data will need to use AI for diagnosis and vaccine development. Many companies are collaborating and sharing their algorithms in the hopes of improving their research efficiency.

Companies and much of the public are relying on connected devices to get through this extraordinary time. Although the practice might differ from country to country, many people are more open to sharing sensitive personal information in the name of disease prevention. However, the use of assistive drones and IP cameras in public places has led to concerns about intrusion into people’s lives. With so much sensitive and personal data collected and uploaded to the cloud, security must be top of mind.

Building a robust security architecture might not be a top priority for enterprises rushing through large-scale implementations of automation and remote-working infrastructure. Hackers will look to exploit the public’s fear and take advantage of the strain on critical infrastructure, potentially resulting in a surge of ransomware and other attacks. Enterprises are relying on security experts to take charge of the situation.

Like it or not, IoT and AI are being integrated into people’s daily lives. The pandemic might have accelerated the adoption even further, seeing how critical social distancing is to stopping the spread of the virus. In this unprecedented time, once-hesitant enterprises are now eagerly deploying the technology.

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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