India may have responded quickly to the problems posed by Covid-19 with the nation-wide lockdown, but enormous challenges to mitigate its spread remains. As states chalk out stringent surveillance and quarantine measures, the demand for digital services to complement these aggressive efforts have emerged in recent weeks.
Be it to flag social distancing violations, monitor the infection, deliver N95 masks and other resources faster, conduct thermal screening of civilians and contact tracing of patients – a host of startups and tech companies have launched various tools and solutions to ease the pressure on state governments.
Sign up for your weekly dose of what's up in emerging technology.
While various initiatives by ministries within the central government such as Corona Helpdesk and Aarogya Setu have helped assuage some of the ongoing challenges, many states have turned to additional technological interventions to tackle some of these.
A case in point being L&T leveraging its AI capabilities to help 20 Indian cities monitor crowds and implement various strategies to fight Covid-19. Another example would be Marut Dronetech, a startup that has enabled some states to use drones to deliver essentials, conduct thermal imaging and even surveil populous areas for possible rule violations. Here are some ways in which states are using AI-powered tools to combat Covid-19:
Capitalising on its experience tackling the Nipah crisis, Kerala has taken several prompt measures to address the current one as well. Backed by quick-thinking and a robust healthcare system, it has been able to anchor its nimble strategies around key innovations.
The state was the first in the country to procure an AI-powered ‘Thermal and Optical Imaging Camera’ for fever screening. Brought to attention by Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor through a Facebook post, it was obtained from Amsterdam and is being used to scan people from a safe distance and isolate those who are ill.
Kerala’s use of Srishti Robotics’ Nightingale-19 Robot is another example. With lack of protective gear placing the lives of healthcare professionals in danger, the state has been leveraging robotics solutions for them to treat patients remotely. Not only can the bot deliver food and medicines in bulk, but it also allows doctors and other healthcare practitioners to use video interactive technologies to interact with patients. It is currently being used in hospitals in Kannur and Thalassery.
In addition to these, Kerala has reportedly been taking the counsel of a coterie of coders, data analysts and software experts to understand the Covid-19 crisis better. An open-source project called ‘Corona Safe Network’ has reportedly been using data to understand the fluctuations in case numbers to prepare a better defence mechanism for future outbreaks.
The government of Karnataka has also been using technology to drive a Covid-19 task force comprising various government functionaries and tech experts, among others. According to reports, several AI-powered tools are helping the government keep track of people with a recent history of foreign travel. With contact tracing emerging as one of the most important ways to handle the Covid-19 crisis, it is also being used to monitor patients, as well as people they may have come in contact with.
Released through the government’s official portal, one such tool is the Corona Watch app. It details the places occupied by a patient in the 14-day incubation period. Another app seeks to ensure that people mandated to self-quarantine themselves are respecting orders. It requires them to click and upload their photo periodically; the geotags of the photo will help authorities keep a check on whether or not they are at home.
Much like Srishti Robotics’ Nightingale-19 Robot, Addverb Technologies has been assisting government quarantine centres in Noida by enabling contactless operations like food and medicine delivery. The robotics startup is also doubling down on using its solutions to sanitise hospitals and schools.
Another startup, Staqu, has launched AI-powered crowd surveillance technologies to curb the spread of the outbreak. Using its proprietary video analytics platform JARVIS, it is currently being used across the state to help authorities enforce social distancing rules and identify protocol violators.
As Bihar looks to relax lockdown restrictions in a phased manner, it has been turning to AI and associated tools to help manage the crisis. The state, through the Norway India Partnership Initiative (NIPI), has reportedly been developing an AI-powered tool to track Covid-19 cases.
NIPI is collaborating with Wadhwani Institute of Artificial Intelligence to determine potential patients through cough sound analysis. Using a large sample size of Covid-19 patients, the team will be analysing their cough patterns, which would, in turn, help an AI-powered tool to detect infections.
Like other states, Tamil Nadu has also been leveraging technologies like GIS systems and data analytics to handle the Covid-19 pandemic. The Tamil Nadu e-Governance Agency (TNeGA) has been at the forefront when it comes to integrating technology into Covid-19 strategies. The team has delivered software for various applications, including inventory management in hospitals, enforcing quarantine orders, and operating call centres, among others. Additionally, it has launched an Aarogya Setu IVRS system for people who do not use smartphones, especially senior citizens.
The state has also partnered with HCL to set up a data analytics centre to strengthen its efforts to curb the spread of the virus. This collaboration will help capture trends from various districts to inform decision making at the government level. As per the partnership, HCL will also upgrade the state’s call centre infrastructure with Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) system for better communication.
Like some cities in India, Mumbai has been partnering with some companies to test the use of AI-powered drones to check people’s adherence to social distancing protocols. One such initiative was demonstrated at Worli by the Mumbai Police, where drones were deployed in a densely populated area to check if rules were being respected.
This will ease some of the pressure of authorities and maximise their reach in certain pockets of the city which is inaccessible and difficult to reach by foot.
Another city that has been leveraging the power of drone technology is Hyderabad. The government has collaborated with tech firm Cyient to enable the police force to use drone-based surveillance to monitor sensitive colonies. In addition to that, it also enables them to deploy resources quickly and make timely public announcements.
Furthermore, it has been using L&T’s ML-based automated number plate recognition system to check the speed of vehicles plying on the roads. Hyderabad had issued an order for civilians to not drive beyond 3 km from their homes, and this technology has been helping administration monitor possible violations.