An overwhelming surge in the deployment of artificial intelligence and natural language processing tools to understand and control the spread of the latest coronavirus (2019-nCov) has given those watching from the Health Sciences field good cause to be optimistic about recent developments. From US-based Johns Hopkins’ real-time case-tracking map to Canada-based BlueDot’s ongoing predictive disease tracker, cutting-edge technology is more engaged than ever in the effort to address this global health threat.
Sensetime, based in Hong Kong, is creating an algorithm that detects fever patients in a crowd. Meanwhile, Chinese companies ranging from search engines to ride-hailing apps have stepped forward to contribute data on population flows, real time maps, and open-source cloud databases that are helping accelerate the search for a vaccine. The use of chatbots and industrial robots in efforts to diagnose and manage the outbreak has further demonstrated technology’s potential to aid in responding to viruses like this one.
Policy change in China has provided opportunities for increased cross-border collaboration; this is apparent in the mechanisms that enabled China and the US to fast-track development of the 2019-nCov vaccine. Nevertheless, it may be several months before a vaccine is fully approved and has passed through regulatory controls. While a vaccine is high priority, mapping and managing the disease through creative technological solutions is a readily actionable first step.
There is a critical need for innovative solutions to track and manage the disease in both the East and the West in order to get a better handle on this global threat represented by the 2019-nCov. When a vaccine does become available, bridging the linguistic and regulatory gap to its deployment will become the most pressing priority. In the meantime, it is reassuring to see the impact that innovative new uses of data and technology are having in the international effort to track, manage, and bring the global coronavirus threat under control.
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