Covid-19 has a new foe: Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is dramatically reducing the time to research the drug molecules that can help develop antibodies and vaccines. While traditional research takes anywhere between four and five years, AI-driven research reduces this to one year. This can accelerate the manufacturing of the required drugs. AI can also scan through the available drugs to find out if existing drugs can help in the fight against the Coronavirus. With these examples, it is heartening to see that advanced technology can be a potent weapon in the global fight against Covid-19.

Unless you have been living under a rock, by now you would have heard of the ominous term ‘Covid-19’ and its implications. It has affected millions globally, impacted industries and curtailed movement.

Pharmaceutical companies and governments have been racing to find a cure and turning to technology, more specifically Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one way. It has been used to determine the proteins of the virus, hasten drug development and reduce the stress on healthcare providers, amongst others. Together with data science, AI has been called upon to find out how this pandemic can be contained and some results have been seen.

Here are some of the ways artificial intelligence is helping to fight the spread of Covid-19.

Social Media to Predict the Spread
Facebook has joined forces with organizations such as Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University and Harvard University to harness social media to determine population movement. Using tools such as data analysis and population density maps to analyse key data, they share the information with authorities which in turn are able to locate areas prone to the virus and deploy sufficient preventive measures.

Information dissemination
In this era where fake news abounds, it is more relevant to ensure the authenticity of news. To this end, social media platforms are using AI-driven tools to aggregate posts around Covid-19 to determine how people are reacting in addition to removing any irrelevant information. Separately, where possible, people are being directed to official websites such as those of the World Health Organisation to ensure people receive the right information and not fake news.

Rapid Diagnosis
Through its abilities, AI has been used to create tools that allow healthcare authorities to detect and monitor positive infection cases. During the pandemic, where time is of the essence and cases increase exponentially, these solutions will enable healthcare workers to speed up the diagnosis of cases for more people in a shorter time, hence reducing the stress on the overall healthcare system.

Robots for Tasks
AI-driven robots can perform essential tasks such as disinfecting healthcare facilities, temperature taking and other relevant tasks, protecting humans from the risk of exposure. They can also be used to deliver food and medicines to help reduce face-to-face contact.

Drones for surveillance
In China, drones were used for city surveillance and to ensure people stayed home as the Covid-19 situation was escalating. City officials sent out drones which would fly around and upon spotting any groups of people congregating, would make announcements asking them to disperse and go home. Other tasks included the delivery of medical supplies to healthcare providers and tracking violations of government orders mandating people to maintain social distancing.

Drug development
Summit, IBM’s supercomputer equipped with the “brain of AI,” recently ran thousands of simulations to analyze which drug compounds might effectively stop the virus from infecting host cells. It determined 77
of them. It’s a promising step toward creating the cure with the ability to fast-track the development of drugs that can fight Coronavirus.

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