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17 tech innovations that could help ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions
With the right technology, we can continue to "flatten the curve," even as we venture out of our homes.
- We're eager to return to "normal," but authorities are understandably wary about lifting lockdown restrictions while a vaccine and effective treatment for COVID-19 continue to elude us.
- Innovators and tech companies are stepping up with new solutions as well as repurposing existing tech to help ease lockdown restrictions.
- Technologies already in use include those for protecting and empowering healthcare workers, tracking the movement of the virus, testing people on a massive scale, and disinfecting public spaces.
The novel coronavirus has pushed half the population of the world into lockdown, disrupted studies for millions of students, destroyed unknown number of businesses, and slowed down the global economy.
Everyone is eager to return to "normal," but governments and public health authorities are understandably nervous about lifting lockdown restrictions while a vaccine and effective treatment for COVID-19 continue to elude us.
The disease has caused over 207,000 deaths worldwide, and a second wave has already hit Asian countries that were first to emerge from lockdown. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, predicts that a second wave will hit the U.S. in November, and a leading epidemiologist warned we'll face a cycle of lockdown and release every three months or so until we develop a vaccine.
With spring 2020 giving way to summer, and much of the world beginning to slowly ease up on restrictions, what's next? What will be "the new normal" as we leave our homes while continuing to flatten the curve?
At this point, like so much else, it's a big unknown. Until we can cure or prevent COVID-19 for good, innovators and tech companies are stepping up with new solutions and also repurposing existing tech to help ease restrictions.
Here are a few of the most promising innovations that are already in motion.
Improving healthcare provision through technology
One of the most pressing imperatives is to relieve the pressure on health workers so that the system as a whole doesn't collapse, as it did in Spain and Italy, causing the highest death rates in the world. We need to help healthcare workers manage their workloads and improve healthcare delivery so that everyone receives the care they need, from the sickest on ventilators in the ICU, to the physically healthy at home with mental health issues.
Telemedicine platforms like Telehealer help deliver healthcare remotely, alongside remote monitoring solutions like Resmetrix, which tracks, records, and sends vital health information to medical professionals. A similar system, Biofourmis, also analyzes this data to predict a patient's condition before it worsens. ResApp Health developed an app that can diagnose different respiratory diseases by listening to the user's cough. These tools keep people out of hospitals for longer, easing demand for hospital beds, and allowing healthcare staff to check patient health metrics at a distance.
Mental health chatbots fill a vital role assessing emotional well-being needs and simply making conversation to help reduce anxiety in people affected by fear of coronavirus.
A mixed reality dashboard
Holo4Triage makes mixed reality glasses for healthcare workers on the front line. These deliver step by step assistance for healthcare workers, guiding them through the process of identifying patients and processing patient details. The glasses sync in real time with the hospital IT system to share updates about currently-available resources.There's also a crucial need for a steady stream of medical equipment and PPE to enable healthcare systems to deliver vital care. Automakers such as Tesla, Ford, and GM are retooling parts and altering manufacturing lines to create ventilators out of car parts. Companies and private individuals with 3D printers are printing advanced masks, face shields, and ventilator components. The 3D Systems team in the UK has called on anyone with engineering expertise or a 3D printer to help them print ventilator parts on demand.
Using tech to track the spread of infection
Better data enables health authorities to understand how the coronavirus spreads, its incubation period, and which are the most-affected areas, so that they can make the right decisions about when, where, and how fast to raise restrictions. Improved data and data sharing also reveals which restrictions are the most effective.
A number of countries are using surveillance apps to track citizens' movements and to identify and notify people who come into contact with someone infected with COVID-19. The same apps can be used to ensure that people placed under quarantine follow the rules of self-isolation correctly. South Korea and Hong Kong have taken the concept a step further by experimenting with smart wristbands that perform the same task, although human rights and privacy concerns prevent South Korea from making them obligatory.
Data gathering and analysis apps like EpiMetrics help by tracking outbreaks in real time and creating a map that charts the spread of disease. Sickweather similarly aggregates social media data, crowd-sourced data, third-party sales, and clinical and demographic information to create real-time health maps that support the early prediction of outbreaks and guide authorities to high-risk zones.
Speeding up diagnostics with apps and tech interfaces
Faster diagnosis helps slow the spread of infection, while remote diagnostic tools protect healthcare workers who would otherwise have to be dangerously close to infected individuals in order to perform a swab, check temperature, etc.
Thermal cameras that can identify individuals with high temperatures out of a crowd are popular for fever detection, although opinion is divided about how effective they are. In Israel, one team is modifying a battlefield radar for use measuring heart rate, respiratory rate, and body temperature from a distance.
The Symptomate app
Digital health company Infermedica produced a free COVID-19 Risk Assessment Tool that can be deployed as a widget on any platform, website, or app, including its Symptomate app. The easy-to-use diagnostic tool is available in over 20 languages, applying a triage-oriented method to assess the user's health situation regarding COVID-19. It's based on WHO guidelines, as interpreted by an expert team of doctors, to help people who suspect they may have COVID-19 to decide whether they need to contact their doctor or remain at home. Already adopted by the Ukranian and Polish health authorities, the Infermedica tool eases pressure on healthcare providers and cuts confusion among patients about what to do next.
Autonomous disinfection and sanitization
While there's still debate about the main vectors of infection for the coronavirus, we know that it can linger in the air and on surfaces for significant lengths of time.
Disinfecting public transport in Tehran
Disinfection and sanitization bots can clean pavements and surfaces on public transport, and they're likewise valuable in indoor places that have a high number of cases, like some industrial plants. In a similar vein, a company in India is among those producing autonomous disinfection chambers, which help quickly disinfect individuals exposed to coronavirus, such as paramedics and front-line healthcare workers.
Technology can free us from lockdown
It's almost inevitable that some restrictions will be with us for another 18 months or so until we have a vaccine or viable treatment for COVID-19. So it's reassuring to know that with the help of new technology, we won't need to spend it all indoors.
Improving healthcare provision, speeding up diagnostics, gathering and analyzing data to track spread of infection, and streamlining disinfection can aid in lifting restrictions, making life in the shadow of corona more pleasant and less anxious for everyone.
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
With just a few strategical tweaks, the Nazis could have won one of World War II's most decisive battles.
- The Battle of Britain is widely recognized as one of the most significant battles that occurred during World War II. It marked the first major victory of the Allied forces and shifted the tide of the war.
- Historians, however, have long debated the deciding factor in the British victory and German defeat.
- A new mathematical model took into account numerous alternative tactics that the German's could have made and found that just two tweaks stood between them and victory over Britain.
Two strategic blunders<p>Now, historians and mathematicians from York St. John University have collaborated to produce <a href="http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~nm15/bootstrapBoB%20AAMS.docx" target="_blank">a statistical model (docx download)</a> capable of calculating what the likely outcomes of the Battle of Britain would have been had the circumstances been different. </p><p>Would the German war effort have fared better had they not bombed Britain at all? What if Hitler had begun his bombing campaign earlier, even by just a few weeks? What if they had focused their targets on RAF airfields for the entire course of the battle? Using a statistical technique called weighted bootstrapping, the researchers studied these and other alternatives.</p><p>"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said co-author Dr. Jaime Wood in a <a href="https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/mathematicians-battle-britain-what-if-scenarios/" target="_blank">statement</a>. Based on the different strategic decisions that the German forces could have made, the researchers' model enabled them to predict the likelihood that the events of a given day of fighting would or would not occur.</p><p>"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," continued Wood. "We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days."</p><p>Ultimately, two strategic tweaks shifted the odds significantly towards the Germans' favor. Had the German forces started their campaign earlier in the year and had they consistently targeted RAF airfields, an Allied victory would have been extremely unlikely.</p><p>Say the odds of a British victory in the real-world Battle of Britain stood at 50-50 (there's no real way of knowing what the actual odds are, so we'll just have to select an arbitrary figure). If this were the case, changing the start date of the campaign and focusing only on airfields would have reduced British chances at victory to just 10 percent. Even if a British victory stood at 98 percent, these changes would have cut them down to just 34 percent.</p>
A tool for understanding history<p>This technique, said co-author Niall Mackay, "demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were. Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."</p><p>The researchers also claimed that their technique could be applied to other uncertain historical events. "Weighted bootstrapping can provide a natural and intuitive tool for historians to investigate unrealized possibilities, informing historical controversies and debates," said Mackay.</p><p>Using this technique, researchers can evaluate other what-ifs and gain insight into how differently influential events could have turned out if only the slightest things had changed. For now, at least, we can all be thankful that Hitler underestimated Britain's grit.</p>
We’ve mapped a million previously undiscovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way. Take the virtual tour here.
See the most detailed survey of the southern sky ever carried out using radio waves.
Astronomers have mapped about a million previously undiscovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way, in the most detailed survey of the southern sky ever carried out using radio waves.
A new study shows our planet is much closer to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center than previously estimated.
Arrows on this map show position and velocity data for the 224 objects utilized to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines point to the positions of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Colors reflect groups of objects that are part of the same arm, while the background is a simulation image.
Apple sold its first iPod in 2001, and six years later it introduced the iPhone, which ushered in a new era of personal technology.