The human zeal to fight back: How AI is helping the fight against coronavirus

Computer vision detecting covid-19

This week Pankaj Chowdhary, growth partner at Fusemachines Inc has delved into the ways AI is helping the fight back against the current global pandemic known as Covid-19.

It struck me hard that the Coronavirus Pandemic is here to stay, after thinking it would pass in a few weeks’ time. This new normal is here to stay as per a recent article by MIT. People are still trying to adjust to this new normal and are finding ways to help one another and the larger business community. This calamity is huge and unprecedented – impacting each and everyone around the globe and the real scale and impact of this is still not known because the whole world is currently busy trying to contain it and treat the ones infected.

With Corona spreading faster than we ever imagined, we are already observing the shift in consumer and business behaviour. Remote working is being encouraged by tech and non-tech companies alike, airline profitability is being impacted by low seat occupancy, supply chains continue to be disrupted globally and retail stores are running out of ibuprofen, dry goods and toilet paper en masse. Some of these changes are direct, short-term responses to the crises and will revert to regular levels once Covid-19 is contained. However, some of these shifts will continue on, creating a long-term digital disruption that will shape businesses for decades to come.

Governments around the globe are working tirelessly in trying to deal with this pandemic crisis, in their own best way as right now there is no right or wrong answers. Organisations around the globe are joining hands and responding to this pandemic in their best possible way.

Tech firms and researchers are leveraging AI to drive the processes and achieve faster outcomes and efficiency. Below are few aspects where AI is making a difference.

Tracking the virus spread:

Various organisations and researchers have come up with approaches using machine learning / natural language processing to sift through social media posts, news reports, data from official public health channels, and information supplied by doctors for warning signs the virus is taking hold in countries outside of China. This dashboard powered by the researchers’ knowledgebase /infrastructure at Johns Hopkins University has created a much needed visualization of the virus’s progress around the world based on official numbers and confirmed cases. This helped Canadian firm BlueDot to highlight an alarming trend of the spread of this virus.  

Conid-19 tracker data visualisation
Screenshot of a data visualisation tracking the spread of covid-19

Detection/testing for virus using AI:

In order to help front-line healthcare workers detect and monitor the disease efficiently artificial intelligence firm Infervision launched a coronavirus AI solution. The virus has immensely pressured the imaging departments in healthcare facilities with workload and this solution improves CT diagnosis speed. E-commerce giant Alibaba has built an AI-powered diagnosis system too claiming 96% accurate at diagnosing the virus in seconds.

Spain who are now worst hit by this pandemic, are looking to increase daily testing from about 20,000 a day to 80,000, by using four robots to apply artificial intelligence (AI) to testing. Further there are firms who are now releasing testing kits to speed up the process of testing the masses across the globe e.g. UK & India both have recently approved the production and distribution of such kits.

Drug discovery/formulation using AI through modelling:

Researchers are working overtime and tirelessly fast-tracking the development of a cure or vaccine for the virus. The sheer scale and speed requirement to run calculations and model solutions is much faster than standard computer processing where cloud and supercomputing powers are being leveraged. For example, BenevolentAI a British start-up is exploiting artificial intelligence to crunch vast amounts of public data to discover a drug which could be used to treat patients while a new vaccine is conjured.

These are a few of the ways AI is helping nations fight this invisible enemy. At this period of uncertainty and unprecedented situation, there is opportunity for drones and robots to deliver supplies. Further tech to process claims in health care are enhanced further e.g. A blockchain platform offered by Ant Financial helps speed up claims processing and reduces the amount of face-to-face interaction between patients and hospital staff.


Read More: AI in Healthcare: Applying the Automation Spectrum to Business


I strongly believe that at the time of crisis, the innovation GENE becomes most active

For example, advanced fabrics, masks and even ventilators are being mass produced by various organisations whose core competencies are different. For example, a UK based vacuum cleaner refurbishment and manufacturing firm will be producing ventilators, whilst other firms are 3D printing glasses. A handful of fabric firms have also quickly changed to produce material gowns and face masks. This equipment is critical to combating the virus and desperately required by those at the front-line.

Another way innovation is showcased is through the initiatives to identify non-compliance, and any potential infected persons. Through surveillance and tracking of people government is trying to enforce restricted movement. This is part of the ‘Lockdown’ step taken by various nations; implementing tough measures becomes necessary to stop the spread of deadly virus and break the chain.

Free tools & services for businesses during the COVID-19 crisis

Remote working is the new norm now as everyone are advised to #StayHome to #StaySafe, apart from critical services workforce. Firms new or old, small or big are extending their help/support in adapting this disruption and new way of working. For example virtual meetings, platforms to collaborate and manage tasks better and efficiently have seen huge demand make of the firms now offering free to use options to help go remote. Fusemachines is used to such remote working environment and was able to adapt fast in setting infrastructure needed to work from home, without huge disruption to the services to our clients and also ensuring health and safety of our staff.

I would like to conclude that AI can’t solve this problem on its own but will help humanity needs.  It will enable scientists, doctors, nurses, policy makers to succeed this will act as an augmented intelligence.


Pankaj Chowdhary

Growth Partner - AI Solutions (UK & Europe) for Fusemachines Inc. which is a Global Artificial Intelligence company headquartered in NYC that focuses on helping firms unlock possibilities using AI. Provide solutions, AI expertise & AI educational solutions.

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