Emerging Technology in the Fight Against Coronavirus

Published: March 26, 2020

Federal Market AnalysisArtificial Intelligence/Machine LearningCoronavirus (COVID-19) PandemicInformation Technology

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain are helping in the response and fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Key Takeaways:

  • The White House is urging the use of artificial intelligence and other technology innovations to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • AI application in response to COVID-19 ranges from helping diagnose patients to accelerating the process to find a cure.
  • Blockchain application to the global pandemic is proving to help financial, academic and healthcare environments.  
  • Emerging technologies such as exascale computing and machine learning will play a greater role in the long-term understanding of coronavirus and other pandemics.

Earlier this week, I discussed the impact that troves of data and supercomputing resources are having on the coronavirus pandemic. Mounds of machine-readable data related to COVID-19 and powerful computing capabilities pave the way for innovations such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help respond and conquer the ongoing crises.

Reliance on AI and other technologies is seen early on in a White House call with technology leaders on March 11 to explore and encourage the use of AI and other emerging technologies to aid in federal, state and local agencies’ response to coronavirus.

Nations around the globe are also using AI and other advanced technologies to deal with the virus.

So far, AI technologies have proven to be helpful in the tracking of the outbreak, providing patient diagnosis, disinfecting contaminated areas, tele-education, and accelerating the mission to find a cure to COVID-19. In addition, the utilization of blockchain is helping financial, academic and healthcare environments cope with the effects of coronavirus.

Samples of AI Use

DOE and other research-oriented institutions are coupling high performance computing capabilities with AI to help develop a vaccine to COVID-19. Finding a cure to any disease is typically based on rapid and reliable recreation of the virus’s genome sequence. AI is assisting in the rapid build out of the virus through computational models and simulation.

Moreover, CDC is now using a health care bot to help the agency screen patients for the viral infection. Developed by Microsoft, the Coronavirus Self-Checker bot on CDC’s website will assess the risk factors and symptoms of people based on a series of questions. The bot helps to decrease the burden on medical doctors and nurses, reserving healthcare resources for urgent situations.

At DARPA, scientists are using AI technologies to track sources of new cases of the virus, as well as help predict existing drugs that could potentially treat coronavirus.

AI is also useful in the academic space. As more and more schools turn to tele-education with the ongoing pandemic, agencies have requested that tech industries explore AI and other emerging online tools to assist with remote learning.

Lastly, social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter have announced the use of AI to combat misinformation on the virus from spreading throughout their platforms.

Sample of Blockchain Use

While the use of blockchain may not be as prevalent as AI, it has proven to aid nations around the world in different customer-facing settings to help respond to the pandemic.

For instance, tech industries are offering education institutions closed by coronavirus free access to its blockchain education and credentialing platform. The platform allows teachers to issue digital certificates of completion for online classes. The technology will help educators track and note the remote activity of students and potentially apply the participation to accreditation systems.

In China, a blockchain platform provides money to individuals for medical needs, including coronavirus. The platform has been able to process claims and make payouts swiftly due to the technology. Likewise, on the health care front, Blue Cross insurance in Hong Kong is utilizing a blockchain platform to reduce claims paperwork for health services, including those related to COVID-19.

Looking Forward

The potential for emerging technology use in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is just beginning. Technologies on the horizon, such as exascale computing, will prove to accelerate the work scientists and researchers are doing to combat this unprecedented virus. DOE is working to establish two exascale systems in 2021-2022, followed by a third system in FY 2023. These systems, the first of their kind, will have the power to cut the processing down to 1/8 the time it takes the fastest supercomputers today, and take medical research applications to another level.

Moreover, Machine Learning (ML) is likely to help with coronavirus prevention in the long-term. Once sufficient data it built around COVID-19, with more examples, criteria and historical examples built up, ML solutions will be able to learn about the virus and assist in containing the disease and its calamitous effects.