How software is helping the fight against COVID-19

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For weeks throughout lockdown we opened our front doors and clapped – celebrating the NHS staff, supermarket workers, cleaners, care workers and other frontline employees who worked diligently to see us through the worst of the pandemic. Without their efforts, the impacts of COVID-19 would have been even more dire. 

To support them, working in the background were software engineers. From artificial intelligence to new applications for pre-existing technologies, software engineers have been innovative in producing ways to fight the spread and effects of the virus. Here’s how. 


Unlocking artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence was already being applied across a range of sectors, from finance and payments to manufacturing and logistics. But the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the use of AI in one industry in particular: healthcare. 

Take research in India, for example. A team of medical scientists has developed an AI-based software which uses X-rays to detect cases of COVID in both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients. This type of technology is being trialled across the world, with similar programmes taking place in the UK too.

Teaching old dogs new tricks 

In the Netherlands, technology teams have explored existing technologies, experimenting with new applications for them in the fight against COVID. Dutch medical companies, Thirona and Delft Imaging, are working with an advanced AI tool in order to support healthcare providers.

Forming the programme CAD4COVID, they have identified that X-ray can be a vital tool in supporting the identification of the virus. As X-ray is generally readily available worldwide, the software can be provided on a trial basis without charge using existing infrastructure.


Track and trace and tech

We’re all aware of the track and trace software that has been under development with Google and Apple for much of the year in a bid to clamp down on new cases of the virus across the country. Whilst this was in the pipeline though, technology companies rushed to create wearable solutions to the tech giant’s headache.

This was the case for UK healthcare start-up Soter Analytics, who turned their attention away from making trackers for measuring employee posture to avoid injuries, to instead focus on producing contact tracing wearables. As experts predict we will have to learn to live with coronavirus, devices such as these could become part of everyday life. 

Robots, drones and facial recognition

At the beginning of the pandemic, China was celebrated for its use of automated technology and software in its handling of the outbreak. Disinfectant robots, smart helmets, thermal camera-equipped drones and advanced facial recognition software were all put to work in the country. The reliance on robotic technology helped to minimise cross-infection when diagnosing patients and was crucial to supporting medical staff.

Elsewhere in China, technology company, Alibaba, developed an AI-powered diagnosis system that is able to identify coronavirus infections in seconds with a 96 per cent accuracy rate. The country’s other top tech company, Baidu, built another AI solution, this time using large scale temperature monitoring to scan up to 200 people per minute. The system is capable of identifying infected individuals within a crowd, and – when combined with facial recognition technology – can be used to predict who else may have been at risk. 

The global tech sector’s reaction to the coronavirus has been incredible, proving once again that not all heroes wear capes. From implementing tracking technology to getting behind the power of the advancements in AI software, the tech community has rallied together in order to support the fight back against COVID. And we’re sure there will be plenty more developments to come.

Software Engineers are the driving force for innovation. develop is scaling software engineering teams that shape our world. For more information, get in touch on 0207 733 0430.

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