While the global Coronavirus infection cases surpass 1.6 million mark and death toll crossed 95,000, it is quite evident that the world is currently struggling to fight against the COVID-19. Even though several countries all around the world have imposed stricter safety measures such as lockdown and social distancing, the number of infection and fatality cases are still growing.

Since there is no vaccine or treatment available for Coronavirus, many researchers, as well as biotech companies, have also joined the race to find a cure. Meanwhile, some technology companies aim to help the international government to fight against the Coronavirus.

IBTimes Singapore recently talked to Benjamin Low the VP APAC Milestone Systems, which is a Denmark based company and a global leading provider of open platform IP video management software (VMS) and network video recorders. He explained how technology can help the world in terms of defeating the unseen enemy -- Novel Coronavirus.

Battle against Coronavirus

Singapore's Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs, Amrin Amin has called for Singaporeans to stand together, especially in support of frontline health workers who are serving our nation in this critical time.

Here's how Benjamin Low explains about the Coronavirus crisis:

The current COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on manpower resources across the board. For immigration and security personnel, it has become challenging to effectively identify infected individuals at crowded immigration checkpoints. This is where video technology can come in to form the first line of defence. Iris and FR scanners at immigration checkpoints, such as those found at Singapore's Changi Airport Terminal 4, will minimise physical contact via passport-and-thumbprint systems or the traditional face-to-face clearance from an immigration official.

Deploy Video systems

At these key installations, the deployment of video systems with thermal or infrared capabilities allow immigration/health officials to quickly identify and isolate infected individuals to prevent further spread of the disease. Some of them even feature AI capabilities that can assess multiple individuals simultaneously. These AI-powered cameras take away the need for duty personnel to conduct physical checks for each passing individual. Medical facilities can also employ video technologies to minimize contact between infected patients and medical staff. They can now remotely monitor or study patient behavior and symptoms in greater clarity and in high definition.

HD thermal cameras

For medical responders, they will be able to monitor body temperatures of quarantined patients in a non-intrusive manner. High definition thermal cameras provide detailed pictures of patient's body temperature as well as aids in the identification of various viral patterns. This also benefits the diagnosis and treatment process, whilst minimising contact between medical responders and infected patients. Applying analytics to video also proves to benefit nurses caring for quarantined patients – they can be quickly notified if a high-risk patient needs assistance or if they had a fall. This is achieved by the analytic software's ability to determine if a person breaks pre-set actions or boundaries within an area. It can even distinguish movements between lying down on a bed or sitting on the floor.

Benjamin Low, VP APAC Milestone Systems
Benjamin Low, VP APAC Milestone Systems

Benjamin Low mentioned that integrating these video technologies and access control systems into a centralized management platform will also help to ease manpower constraints. He believes that healthcare workers will be able to perform mundane tasks remotely such as adjusting the temperature or turning off the lights at individual wards or laboratories, from a safe environment.

Use of technology during COVID-19 pandemic

Singapore has been praised for its efforts to fight against the Coronavirus which include providing enough fund to help the residents of the Republic and planning a strategy to prepare the country for an economic crisis. But it should not be overlooked that airports, train stations and immigration checkpoints, medical facilities and hospitals, these are quickly becoming the frontline scenes for battling the contagion.

Benjamin Low mentioned that the combination of technologies such as AI, IoT and data analytics, video technology can be used to ensure frontline staff get real-time updates that help them make crucial time-sensitive decisions, from a safe distance.

Benjamin Low said in Singapore, video technology has been used for crowd control, to prevent large gatherings in supermarkets or malls as the technology and analytics help the authorities to digitally count the number of people going in and out the premises. Through this way, management can ensure that malls are not overly crowded, in adherence to the government's directive.

He also mentioned:

"Adding AI and analytics to these video technologies provide frontline staff with active assets that can process and assess large amounts of data. This will further frontline workers' efforts in keeping the population safe, providing quality care for infected patients and work towards curbing the spread of the outbreak."

China
China using thermal scanners Wikimedia commons

Technology vs Coronavirus

While the government's agencies, medical professionals, civil servants and the frontline workers play the biggest role in the fight against COVID-19, there are some small communities who are using video technology to in school campuses and office buildings, as well as systems equipped with thermal imaging capabilities to ensure the safety of its occupants and visitors.

Benjamin Low told IBTimes Singapore:"While video and facial recognition technologies have undergone some scrutiny, we've seen them serving as a force for good when used responsibly, especially during COVID-19. I think it's important that all stakeholders work very closely together to improve and innovate technologies with the goal to eliminate biases, improve accuracy and develop systems that are safe, secure and adheres to government regulations."

As the World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized the significant role of AI, big data and surveillance systems in China's response to the COVID-19, we asked Benjamin Low that even though these countries used several technologies, including facial recognition and thermal screening, the disease continues to spread. Does it mean that a different approach was required? In response, he said:

To reiterate the point above, what is more, reasonable to expect out of technology, is augmentation rather than substitution. Take for example the use of AI – it processes much more data in much less time and empowers people to make better decisions more quickly. However, it is still up to the human operator or specialist to make the best use of the information provided. In the same way, as much as thermal imaging cameras can detect spikes in temperature on an individual's skin, the final diagnosis of the individual is still best left to a healthcare professional.

I believe that all countries are doing their utmost for their citizens and are diligently working to curb the spread of the virus. The situation changes daily, and it's crucial that organisations focus on being nimble, develop solutions that have consumers' benefit at the core and support the greater mission to contain the pandemic. At Milestone, we have moved our business virtually, and as a global company thankfully our teams are fully equipped to set up remotely and have been doing so even before COVID-19. In light of COVID-19, we've started rolling out free webinars for the tech community with our partners and upscaled our online training capabilities and capacity.