The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating in so many ways. Throughout it all though, key workers such as medical staff, retailer workers and those in logistics have carried on doing their jobs despite the risk. At the same time, business and factory operators have had to find ways to mitigate the threat and keep employees safe.
Necessity is the mother of invention however, and so we're now seeing more and more uses for IoT technology in monitoring and virus prevention in order to stop the spread of this insidious and deadly respiratory condition.
Using the IoT to detect an outbreak
Early detection is absolutely vital to stopping the spread of COVID-19, and the pairing of IoT and AI is already being utilised to predict where outbreaks are most likely to occur by analysing relevant data including population size and areas where volumes of people are gathered.
AI sensors can then be used to instigate early, targeted, quarantines, facilitating quick and effective treatment that will slow the spread of COVID-19.
While the impact this technology can have during the current pandemic is to be celebrated, there is already use cases being planned for further on down the line. The likes of the World Health Organisation (W.H.O) and United Nations are already seeking commitment from governments around the world to use the same infrastructure to build an early detection system, stopping any future potential pandemics before there is a chance for it to take hold.
Making quarantine compliance easier with IoT
Patient compliance during quarantine is a major area of focus for IoT in the time of COVID-19.
Using IoT, healthcare professionals and public health personnel can monitor the condition of patients in quarantine, see when quarantine has been breached, and use the collected data to aid track and trace efforts to inform anyone who may have been exposed to the virus during a breach.
Managing patient care
Sticking with patients, the NHS and other healthcare authorities around the world are currently facing the challenge of safely managing patient care while reducing the risk of viral spread.
IoT devices are allowing patients to be examined without direct contact with staff. Using IoT, basic diagnostics like as temperature checks can be carried out remotely before the data is sent to the cloud for further analysis. This lets the healthcare professionals collect more data in less time, and in far more safely.
It is hoped that the scalability of IoT will allow those patients who are at-risk enough to be quarantined, but not yet ill enough to be admitted to hospital to be monitored in the same way.
Smart sensors to measure air quality and social distancing
Keeping spaces well ventilated is absolutely key in the fight against COVID-19, but it is also one of the biggest challenges facing buildings with heavy usage.
Such buildings are often excessively polluted as it is, with traces of carbon monoxide, mould, asbestos dust and other compounds commonly found in the air. Viruses like cold and flu also travel easily, and, given the rate at which COVID-19 spreads, it's clear to see why monitoring the quality of air has become a hot topic.
Thankfully, sensors that can collect air quality information are easy to install. These sensors are connected to AI systems, with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems activated when necessary.
Similarly, sensors can be used to measure social distancing and capacity. The former is of great use to workspaces like factories and logistics warehouses, with wearable alarms sounding when individuals are too close for too long. The latter is best deployed in the likes of shops, where footfall varies throughout the day, and keeping an eye on numbers within the building can be more difficult.
Increasing use of robotics
The notion of robotics taking over human jobs is still one that can be difficult to shift from the public consciousness. The fact is though, that robots have been carrying out more dangerous tasks in industrial settings, for some time now, protecting the health and safety of the human workforce. Using internet of robotic things (IoRT) technology to safeguard against COVID-19 is just the next logical step in the current climate.
IoRT devices, or smart robots, can be used in the medical world to deliver materials and foods around hospital wards, and dispense stock in pharmacies. In day-to-day life, drones are being tested in some countries to establish their suitability for home deliveries (something Amazon has been developing for sometime), while the mobile phone manufacturer, Huawei, has successfully converted robots and drones usually used in agriculture to spread disinfectant sprays instead.
It's likely that the COVID-19 pandemic will only really end when mass-vaccination programmes are completed around the world. Until then though, it is impressive to see just how quickly new uses have been found for IoT technology to help keep us all safer going forward.