Author: Thoufeeq Ahmed
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) a pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of Computer Science dealing with designing new smart and intelligent machines which can retrieve data, examine and mix information flow and decide subsequent understandings to conclude.
In the last two decades, the world has witnessed a number of disease and pandemics outbreaks - West Nile Virus, Anthrax, SARS-CoV, Mumps, E. coli & Salmonella, H1N1 Virus (Swine Flu), Whooping Cough, MERS-CoV, Ebola, Zika Virus and COVID-19. The WHO provides a pandemic alert system, with a scale ranging from a low risk’ of a flu pandemic to a ‘full-blown’ pandemic which is a community-level outbreak.
AI was always at the forefront and is a viable means in the journey of finding the solutions to pandemics. These solutions can be useful at every phase of a pandemic:
- Detecting areas of pandemic and alerting – using algorithms for recognition of patterns.
- Tracking and forecasting – using blended technology of AI and Bluetooth.
- Helping researchers by providing metadata – accessibility, interoperability and reusability.
- Diagnosis assistance and treatment – understanding the images using AI-based medical image analysis.
Although AI provides a lot of opportunities to handle pandemics, unfortunately, it has to deal with unbiased and reliable data to train the models. Due to this reason in the current pandemic, COVID-19, AI is mostly used as a surveillance tool to enforce lockdowns and keep the infected patients in isolations rather than in predictions and diagnosis. Though AI is not an immediate and effective solution to current complex, unanswered questions related to pandemic queries. The features and applications of AI in finding fast reliable solutions to various other issues circles back to motivate us for developing better AI algorithms.
Analytical and predictive computing techniques and tools to deal with pandemic have drawn the attention of researchers and graduate students. Students of Computer Science and Computer Engineering programmes at Middle East College (MEC) are equipped to help in developing digital technologies which can be useful and applied to different stages of the pandemic. The following are some of the areas on which students can work or are working on:
- Pandemic Reporting, Control and Management Systems: Such systems can include a mechanism to collect the data, day to day updates on patients affected by the pandemic, pandemic forecast, geolocation tracking, managing the frontline staff.
- Digital smart health care app: App to recognize and respond to pandemic symptoms.
- AI-powered security cameras and mirrors: to detect body temperatures.
- Digital life app: Apps allowing to work from home, provide eHealth services, allows digital public services.
- Digital culture app: eLearning, Virtual industry visits, online entrepreneurship.
- Digital connectivity app: Personalized webinar and online connectivity.
- Digital Trust app: Providing safe internet connectivity and keeping away from disinformation.
- Chatbots for free consultancy and local faqs on pandemics.