Hackernoon logoIoT Can Help Control The COVID-19 Pandemic in 2021 by@Softengi

IoT Can Help Control The COVID-19 Pandemic in 2021

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@SoftengiSoftengi

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The Internet of Things is a paradoxical technology: despite its simplicity, it can dramatically improve people’s daily lives and make businesses more profitable and less risky. Yet the majority of companies still hesitate when it comes to the implementation of IoT in business operations. 

According to Forbes Technology Council experts, the Internet of Things appeared to be very useful in fighting COVID, allowing it to solve the most urgent tasks and to get through the pandemic easier.

More than that, it turned out that the timely implementation of the IoT solutions could and still can minimize the subsequent economic crisis as well, allowing businesses to return to normal operational activity faster.

In this article, we will talk about COVID-19 IoT solutions, how IoT can identify sick people, how IoT can provide remote patient monitoring, and how IoT can help with social distance maintenance. More than that, the possibilities of IoT for operations optimization will also be discussed. After all, the crisis we are facing with the COVID-19 pandemic should help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future with any similar situations. And IoT is definitely here to stay!

But how exactly can it help in the battle with COVID-19?

IoT for Sick People Identification

Thermal cameras and contactless thermometers are now everywhere, you probably have noticed them in airports and gyms. Their use has become extremely popular among all IoT COVID-19 solutions. At the beginning of the pandemic, everything started with contactless thermometers, now most large offices have thermal cameras due to a number of economical benefits. 

First of all, thermal cameras prevent sick people from entering the premises by identifying their body temperature and taking preventative measures. A person can not enter the building without passing control of the thermal camera which is integrated with an access system of any company.

Second, thermal cameras show an accurate result even if a person left the building and then came back from a cold street. A person's forehead may be cold, but the thermal camera measures the temperature all over his or her face, averages it, so the readings are quite accurate, much more accurate than contactless thermometers. 

Thermal cameras are slowly becoming a “must” for many crowded places companies, airports, shopping malls, and their utilization is getting habitual. 

IoT and Computer Vision: Masks Wearing

IoT solutions can work together with AI (Artificial Intelligence would include Computer Vision and Machine Learning) and can provide even more accurate and efficient results. For example, thermal cameras can use AI to determine the presence/absence of masks automatically. 

When using such a solution, it is possible not only to find the person who is in quarantine but also to address the archive of video or photos, to determine where this person has been and with whom. This will help to identify potentially infected, and thus to promptly manage the virus spread in the future.

AI-enhanced thermal cameras can be placed, for example, in the office to track employees and make them wear masks or ban them from entering the premises.

More than that, the introduction of face recognition allows a retrospective search of potentially infected people. 

The idea of AI-powered thermal cameras is very attractive to large companies, owners of offices, shopping malls, hospitals, and universities to measure the temperature of visitors or workers. AI-powered thermal cameras can help to ensure safety during the various stages of the return to production at factories and guarantee a normal working rhythm.

IoT for Remote Health Monitoring of Patients

While all hospitals were experiencing a massive influx of people infected with the virus, the clinics had to be closed at least partially for the rest of the people without COVID. Patients suffering from various diseases and disabilities almost lost access to adequate treatment and care. It became clear that the existing health care system may not be sufficient to address a problem of this magnitude and some changes needed to be implemented.

Older people are the population group most likely to be affected by the pandemic, so one of the most important measures is to limit contact with them. 

Restrictions on visits to older persons were therefore imposed; however, neither the need for relatives to communicate with each other nor the need for staff to provide basic health services can be eliminated.

As a result, the use of IoT solutions, which include such health monitoring devices as blood pressure monitors, temperature monitors, heart rate monitors, and portable devices for individual health parameters monitoring, is becoming increasingly popular. 

There are a lot of options to use health monitoring devices. They can be attached to the clothes that the person wears or be in the form of wristbands, smart bracelets. Often seniors don't want to wear any devices and this makes tracking their health challenging. In this case, it is possible to create a special device that will monitor some person's characteristics on the distance. 

Thus, even in a hospital with 50 patients, it is possible to monitor the health conditions of every single person in real-time. A nurse or a doctor would have a dashboard with all the vital body parameters of every single patient in front of her during her watch. 

IoT projects for COVID-19 are very widespread. For example, the Singapore researchers have created a mask, which received a set of sensors that measure some parameters (body temperature, pulse rate, blood pressure, and oxygen content in the blood), as well as a Bluetooth interface that can transmit this data for analysis to a smartphone or other devices. 

The mask can measure vital parameters of patients once every half an hour without requiring them to move around the rooms of the relevant equipment, which simplifies the work of staff and reduces the likelihood of virus spread. However, the mask can also be used to monitor the condition of doctors who work in the "red zones" under extreme stress and high loads. It also performs its direct protective functions, moreover, it can be washed together with the built-in electronics. It is a very interesting IoT COVID-19 solution.

IoT for Social Distancing Control

IoT solutions can be applied to restore social, business, and cultural activity as well. Faced with the weakness of social distancing measures in some countries, there is a real need to ensure that people are safe and secure in all public places.

IoT can be used in contactless logistics, warehouses, factories, and public transport to restore the pre-COVID level of operational activities faster before we all get vaccinated.

With the help of IoT, it is possible to carry out, for example, counting of people in the train or free seats, not allowing people to sit next to each other automatically. Again social distancing can be regulated with the help of Computer Vision and IoT, or with IoT trackers. 

Another approach is to equip people, for example, workers in a big crowded factory, with tags that would prevent social distancing norms violations. When two workers will approach each other they or their boss will get the notifications immediately and the social distancing will be restored.

For example, Belgian railway workers use "smart" cameras equipped with sensors, which monitor whether the employees wear masks and observe the social distance. Smart cameras were installed in the offices of the Belgian railway operator, which employs 11 thousand people.

The image from the cameras is analyzed using an online system with artificial intelligence. An AI algorithm, based on a special mathematical model, calculates whether the required distance is respected and whether the employees are wearing masks. If a large number of people gather in the room and a person without a mask appears or if the social distance is broken, a warning signal will be sounded.

Another interesting application of IoT solutions for COVID is the monitoring of the presence of employees at workplaces. With IoT sensors, it is easy to create a coherent system that will help to keep social distancing levels in a smart manner.

For instance, each employee gets notifications about the availability of free spaces online and decides whether to go /not to go to the office.  

Using IoT solutions encourages people to be vigilant as the country gradually returns to normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Drones and Robots that Fight the Virus

In a world where it is forbidden to leave one's own home, drones and robots are gaining enormous popularity. Drones can be used for everything from detecting someone with a high fever in a crowd to disinfecting public places and delivering goods to remote locations. 

For example, in China, agricultural drones designed to fertilize land were spraying disinfectants on roadways and squares, carried food to remote areas of the city, and delivered medical samples, significantly reducing travel time. At the same time, French police used drones when they declared a state of emergency. They monitored parks and public places.

Contacless logistics in which drones play a major part is definetely here to stay.

Robots are just as useful in the fight against the coronavirus. For example, sterilizing robots could be developed that could kill viruses and disinfect hospital rooms without the use of additional chemicals.

Besides, they could be endowed with the ability to measure the temperature of patients. Such robots can emit concentrated ultraviolet light, which destroys bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microbes, damaging their DNA and RNA and preventing them from multiplying.

This robot-like approach eliminates the use of chemical-based products, such as hydrogen peroxide, that require people to leave the room during disinfection. Moreover, they can be used not only in hospitals but also in any public place.

Conclusion

Considering this wide implementation of IoT technologies during the pandemic, it is possible to suggest that after the COVID-19 epidemic will be even more important.

Timely widespread IoT solutions introduction is equally important both for successful treatment of any disease as well its prevention.

We do hope that the impetus which was given to IoT technologies by COVID will evolve and businesses will be more open and ready to experiment with them.

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