Emerging technologies have played a significant role in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Among them, IoT—particularly when combined with other emerging technologies like cloud, blockchain, 5G, and AI—has been used in a wide range of applications during the COVID-19 outbreak. There are questions about how this innovative use of data may affect privacy, but for now, those have been set aside to address this public health emergency.
In this PoV, we will discuss how IoT technology is being used to fight COVID-19 and why IoT needs more focus from service providers. COVID-19 is forcing service providers to check the robustness of their solutions, which had only been implemented piecemeal until now.
IoT is serving as the backbone in solutions to the problems COVID-19 poses
The use cases that we have seen in the fight against COVID 19 indicate that we have always had the technology to at least start the battle against the epidemic. Use cases that were in the pilot, proof of concept, or production stages have been put into action on the front line, showing that the solutions were already available—we just needed the right catalyst. After some initial chaos, providers were able to realize how to use IoT technology as a solution.
Enterprises can leverage IoT in combination with different technologies to deal with disease outbreaks, but they are fragmented and still require more infrastructure to connect the components of data collection, processing, analysis, and storage. A total epidemic response program covers all systems, including healthcare, surveillance, epidemic tracking, and others in the same vein. IoT solutions form the technology backbone that can support all of these systems.
How is IoT helping to fight against COVID-19?
IoT is already used to manage and many aspects of COVID-19, and it is helping us battle the epidemic. Some of the most widely used use cases are in Exhibit 1.
Exhibit 1: Most commonly used IoT use cases in the COVID-19 pandemic
- Real-time disease surveillance
- Early warning sign of new clusters of the disease
Kinsa Health has used data gathered from its connected thermometers to produce daily maps showing which US counties are seeing an increase in high fevers.
- Remote tracking of patients
- Quarantine tracking
- Help in avoiding touching of face
China wore bracelets and rings synced with an AI platform from CloudMinds to provide constant monitoring of vital signs, including temperature, heart rate and blood oxygen levels
Hong Kong is using electronic tracker wristbands to alert authorities when individuals do not comply with compulsory home quarantines.
Smart wristband that vibrates if the person wearing it tries to touch his or her face, an action which health authorities have cited as being a lead cause of the virus spread.
- Rapid Response to Cleaning Alerts
Hospitals in Vancouver, British Colombia (Canada) are installing IoT buttons. (called Wanda QuickTouch).The IoT buttons send instant alerts to management advising of any cleaning or maintenance issues that may pose risks to the public safety. The technology enables facility managers to track alerts and staff response times, as well as monitor regular cleaning activities in the high-traffic areas.
- Delivery of supplies
- Monitoring and ensuring compliance with lockdown
- Spraying disinfecting chemicals
The Japanese company Terra Drone employed drones to transport supplies in China and claimed this increased the speed of transport by more than 50% compared to road transportation. Governments and law enforcement throughout China
- Videoconferencing services between patients and doctors
- Monitoring the body temperatures
- Disinfecting designated areas.
UBTECH Robotics’ ATRIS, AIMBOT, and Cruzr robots were deployed at a Shenzhen hospital specialized in treating COVID-19 patients.
A new start-up, Soapy Care, has developed what they call “smart sinks.” With the tag line “Your hygiene is in your hands”’, these stand-alone micro-stations (kind of like water coolers) use IoT sensors to dispense the exact amount of soap or sanitizer that should be used, as well as the amount and temperature of water needed to properly wash hands for the home, restaurants, day care or senior centers as per different requirements.
- Virtual consultations
- Continuous monitoring service
In India: Apollo Hospitals have started online consultation on its Apollo24/7 App
Medtronic Care Management Services is launching two new software programs for assessing, monitoring and triaging people concerned about COVID-19 and potential symptoms
Source: HFS Research 2020
The Bottom Line: Service providers should work on the integration and interoperability of IoT solutions to make them more sustainable and reliable.
COVID-19 has shown that we have been using IoT use cases in a piecemeal manner rather than combing them to create a proper response system. Every single use case mentioned above can be interconnected to create a response system for the pandemic. Thus, we can see that kind of fragmentation across the IoT industry. Service providers should use COVID-19 to improve existing solutions improving its robustness. Real benefit out of IoT will be when it can connect seamlessly with other devices to provide benefit to the user using the interoperability feature.