The Internet of Things is an equalizer in the fight against COVID-19 and any future pandemics that may occur on a global scale
As our civilization as a whole comes to grip with a pandemic of biblical scales sweeping across the planet, we rely on the Internet of Things (IoT) and its comprehensive applications to mitigate the outbreak of COVID-19. IoT applications are coming to our aid in hitherto unforeseen ways, in tackling the crisis.
4 ways IoT can help mitigate impact of viral outbreaks
IoT is already playing a vital role today by assisting civic authorities with tasks such as crowd control, or offering medical support staff with contact-less diagnostics, and more. In certain parts of the world, IoT technology has already become the corner-stone of crucial medical operations. For instance, the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center or the SPHCC, has deployed IoT-based sensors that can help health officials track the condition of patients. Even the path-breaking portal www.covidvisualizer.com accumulates data in real-time from IoT devices to offer a visual summary of the outbreak across world geography.
Globally recognized IoT experts such as Dilip Sarangan have gone on record to state how IoT can step up both in the present crisis, as well as the post-COVID-19 global scenario. The Internet of Things can certainly revolutionize and bolster our readiness for a viral outbreak by:
One of the biggest challenges that medical support staff, as well as authorities, have had to face during this crisis, is the inability to map the virus’s trajectory. Medical responsiveness is essential in curbing the proliferation of the infection.
Merging Geographic Information Systems with IoT mobile data can make it easier for authorities to scout the origin and direction of the spread of the virus. It becomes easier to track divergent datasets as well. A prime example of this perk granted by IoT is how Kinsa Health is using data gathered from over a million ‘smart thermometers’ to track US counties with recent abrupt surges in high fever cases, an evident symptom of COVID-19.
Authorities and services face mainly a three-part challenge with dispensing medical assistance during an outbreak in which infection spreads by contact:
IoT has already come immensely handy in assisting medical professionals prioritize cases of infections, discerning treatment courses, and promoting remote medical assistance. Using IoT we can also render easy caregiving, by:
● Mass-production of drone technology to deliver personalized prescription medicines to patients, as the authorities in China, US, France, Spain and a lot of other nations are doing to ensure the in-door quarantines are in effect.
● Using IoT devices to remotely read patient stats, and collate the collective data on a wider scale just as Kinsa Health is doing with their Bluetooth-enabled smart thermometers.
● IoT-based wearable devices that converge with AI and Cloud technologies to help medical staff monitor temperature, heart rate and other vital stats of patients.
● IoT drove, 5G-connected robotics for substituting medical staff where contact with patients is imminent.
Cloudminds, a cloud-based, AI-driven robotics company has already deployed such robots at the Wuhan Wuchang Hospital. businesses such as Xenex Disinfection Services and UVD are also employing their robots in China, as well as the US and Italy.
Governmental authorities across the world are also unable to fully ensure the compliance of citizens' medical restrictions and mandates. The results are:
a. Increased chance of already-infected patients spreading the infection.
b. Uninfected individuals acquiring the infection due to non-compliance of mandates.
c. Inability to control the spread of the virus, and so much more.
IoT can help control bodies exercise greater strictness over quarantine and social distancing mandates:
● IoT systems can use cloud databases to take biometric scans of any individual, quickly deducing if they might be a risk to the others in the public around them.
● ‘IoT buttons’ and switches like the ones being installed by Vancouver’ hospitals to alert for disinfection, helping curb surface contact as per restrictions.
● Existing IoT systems used for crowd surveillance can be used to disperse any chances of public gatherings despite warnings.
● At-home-IoT devices to prevent patients from venturing out for appointments and reduce exposure of medical personnel to the infection.
The Hong Kong government is using wrist-bands operating on IoT to track individuals disobeying quarantine mandates; especially, those who have recent foreign travel history.
IoT-guided data analyzing and summarizing systems can help experts and the general public alike keep track of the progress of the virus. Multiple social media platforms such as Facebook and socializing tools such as Whatsapp are also joining hands with governments to offer mandated advisory and curb propagation of inaccurate news and rumors. Facebook has also doubled up efforts to prevent the spread of misinformation and present accurate data to users based on their geo-location pin-point.
IoT has so far met the challenges head-on to offer some ground-breaking solutions in terms of public healthcare, mandatory medical advisory compliance, ad-hoc medical emergencies, and overall modernization of our healthcare system. IoT-based pre-emptive information and awareness systems can go a long way to educate the masses, curb the infection-spread and eliminate misinformation.
An experiential evaluation of the COVID-19 outbreak and how the world is dealing with it, has made it brutally evident that for the most part we were neither prepared nor proactive enough to use the available means to mitigate the disaster. Once the world starts to recover from the COVID-19 outbreak, we must as a whole use the disaster as a learning experience.
The potential of IoT in circumventing such a crisis, however, is still largely untapped and unrealized. If we mobilize the technological advancements made possible today by the Internet of Things strategically, then we have a better fighting chance at keeping such pandemics at bay by nipping the source of the infection at the bud.