With social distancing the temporary new norm, we’re relying on digital technology more than ever. Here are 6 ways tech is helping us through the pandemic.
While we all wait in hope and cheer on the scientists working to develop a vaccine to the novel coronavirus that has swept the world, life remains turned on its head.
The need for social distancing and isolation have presented logistical and technical challenges that didn’t exist three months ago – but it didn’t take long for the tech innovators of the world to step up.
We’ve listed just 6 of the inspiring tech innovations that have been launched in recent months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Computer science to the rescue!
1. Coronavirus Australia App
Canberra-based tech firm Delv was contracted by the Australian Government to build the Coronavirus Australia app, which is a one-stop shop for all official government information and communications related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tech whizzes at Delv apparently pulled this app together in less than two weeks, and it was downloaded by almost a million Australians in the first 24 hours.
Delv is honoured to be selected to support and collaborate with the #australiangovernment in augmenting its people and processes with the creation and deployment of world-leading intelligent automation.
#rpa #ai #artificialintelligence #machinelearning #intelligentautomation pic.twitter.com/Uy74bKA62y
— Delv (@DelvSocial) February 11, 2020
2. COVID-19 Whatsapp channel
At the same time, Aussie software company Atlassian was working with Facebook and the Australian government to build a Whatsapp messaging service as another way to disseminate official government information about COVID-19. You may associate Whatsapp with dodgy theories shared on your family and friend channels – now this easy-to-use channel is an attempt to combat misinformation by enabling users to request up-to-date news and other information using a simple numbers and emojis list. The channel can be accessed at aus.gov.au/whatsapp
Launched Australian Gov’t WhatsApp channel! Simple COVID-19 govt / health info, 🔢 latest numbers, restrictions, 🗞️news &🏠emojis → https://t.co/QskF5QT08h
— Mike Cannon-Brookes 👨🏼💻🧢 (@mcannonbrookes) March 29, 2020
3. Cloud-based diagnosis training
Radiation and imaging experts at University of Sydney spinoff start-up, DetectEd-X, have directed their breast cancer diagnosis tool to be used for COVID-19.
The cloud-based platform, called CovED, uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to rapidly and in real-time train healthcare professionals to diagnose COVID-19 from lung scans. The world-first technology is free and available to anyone with an internet connection. “Our platform does not replace expert medical and radiologic training but CovED provides an effective way to recognise rapidly the appearances of COVID-19, which could be critical in a situation of too many patients and not enough expert radiologists,” explained DetectEd-X CEO and high profile radiation scientist, Professor Patrick Brennan.
4. TraceTogether App
Singapore has been singled out by the World Health Organisation for its success in flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases – partly because of the country’s rigorous ‘contact tracing’, which means tracking down people who have the virus and who they’ve come into contact with. One way they’ve done this is by developing the TraceTogether App. The government has encouraged its citizens to install the app which communicates with other phones via Bluetooth. That means when you get close to someone, the app records the interaction and how long it was. That information is stored for 21 days, so if that person becomes infected, you can be alerted and watch out for symptoms or get a test.
5. Remote work and study 2.0
While working and studying from home isn’t exactly new to the current situation – COVID-19 has meant a fast transition and on an unprecedented scale into remote working and schooling. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and by the time all this is over, the tech we use to work and study from home is likely to have improved significantly.
According to Professor Bruce Thomas, director of the University of South Australia’s Australian Research Centre for Interactive and Virtual Environments (IVE) – which specialises in developing techniques to enhance virtual interactive experiences – the COVID-19 pandemic could prompt a wave of innovation in virtual and augmented reality applications.
“The current pandemic situation is going to push users and developers of remote collaboration technologies to find out what works and what doesn’t, and what solutions really need to be delivered,” he said.
“Higher uptake and demand usually lead to a technology being scrutinised and refined, so I expect we’ll see some real innovation in this area over the coming months.”
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6. FinTech revolution
According to one of the world’s leading financial advisory organisations, deVere Group, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen a surge in the use of FinTech (financial technology) apps – with a 72% jump in use of it’s own FinTech apps among European customers in just one week.
These apps allow people to use and spend their money electronically, without access to physical cash – which is pretty helpful during a global pandemic.
Author: Gemma Chilton
Gemma has a degree in journalism from the University of Technology, Sydney and spent a semester studying environmental journalism in Denmark. She has been writing about science and engineering for over a decade.