Coronavirus outbreak: Emerging defence technologies to help fight COVID-19 pandemic

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Published: April 1, 2020 1:53:20 PM

With all sorts of health precautions and COVID-19 solutions emanating from various sources, the AFMS can help in standardising these for dissemination to the public.

The Armed Forces have the wherewithal and infrastructure to handle critical aspects like data security and data integrity to meet the WHO’s Guidelines.

Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) has already geared itself in many ways to assist in the country’s fight against the spread of COVID-19. The Indian armed forces have set up quarantine facilities across the country to monitor the COVID-19 high-risk individuals (like evacuees from abroad). And has also been helping the civil authorities by preparing multiple military hospitals, or the hospitals of Ordnance Factory Board throughout the country to handle the COVID-19 patients. Also, testing facilities have been established at major Military Hospitals (like Command Hospitals)for general public too.

The Armed Forces have the wherewithal and infrastructure to handle critical aspects like data security and data integrity to meet the WHO’s Guidelines.

The already existing hi-tech and structured military communication network can be effectively used in the fight against COVID-19 to establish a formal means of communication for advising the government, and stop the spread of misinformation which may create confusion and could hinder an effective response against COVID-19.

How can emerging technologies help in this fight?

Leveraging of emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data or drones by AFMS can not only assist the armed forces personnel but the Nation at large, in the mission, to fight COVID-19. Some of the emerging technologies which are applicable for the fight against COVID-19 include drones, case tracking, Big data, Artificial Intelligence etc.

Drone Surveillance

“Defence has a robust UAV based surveillance system along with highly trained pilots and these services can be placed at the disposal of local Administration for monitoring the Law & Order situation up to a District level. Indian Air Force (IAF) can work closely with Airport Authority of India (AAI) to provide clearances to Police for safe drone surveillance windows and provide the flight plans for a day or night operations” suggests Milind Kulshreshtha, the C4I expert.

Case Tracking

“Technical tracking of Coronavirus carriers i.e. using the mobile cell tower network, to track the high-risk potential individual and evolve the recommendations for government teams to effectively respond,” he says.

In his opinion, “The Defence shall be ready to ensure strict privacy of the individual data with the implementation of coded information for every citizen while sharing with the government. In absence of any COVID-19 vaccination yet, this tracking exercise is probably going to grow extensive and may be required for an extended period.”

Big Data

Big data can be used for creating a near real-time map of the outbreak which could help in disbursing medical resources appropriately. The near real-time COVID-19 trackers can continuously pull data from sources around the country and generate daily reports depicting India specific statistics like the outbreak and fatality curves for better comprehension and forecast. At their data-processing level, Defence can implement data quality and security controls. “It is well known that Data-integrity weaknesses creep in whenever personal digital devices are used, and these can incorporate errors when a large scale predictive model is developed. The defence is the only agency which can ensure data security and remove biases in data sets for objectivity so that public trust in medical efforts by the Government is reinforced,” the C4I expert observes.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

According to Kulshreshtha, “This can be used to sort various medical reports to pinpoint the ‘super-spreader’ and help create ‘association’ relationship in the neighbourhood. Required AI infrastructure like smart servers and processors can be quickly implemented by the defence establishment as a capacity-building measure, while other State Medical machinery is engaged with direct public handling.” And AI can help in optimising the ‘supply and demand’ logistics mechanism.

Health Education

With all sorts of health precautions and COVID-19 solutions emanating from various sources, the AFMS can help in standardising these for dissemination to the public.

“Health check Apps could be created for citizens to upload their symptoms in case they are in doubt of medical conditions. Analytics can be run around this data points and necessary advice that citizen is required to visit a medical centre and most suitable centre as per his location can be suggested. Further, AFMS can innovatively create software modules for a range of health initiatives, including preventative and hygiene standards for the Indian context and make it available for public access. This shall immensely support the on-field frontline health workers,” the expert says.

By utilizing these emerging technologies, AFMS shall be able to offer an accurate and timely advice, thereby, translating the data-centric information to actionable information for the authorities.

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