Artificial intelligence (AI) and data science (DS) are helping the world to fight against the current COVID 19 pandemic unimaginably. No doubt these are superheroes of technology. These are unprecedented times in human history. The world hasn’t faced a challenge of this magnitude since WWII.
AI & DS proved its versatility once again! Numerous applications of AI & DS are now helping this world to fight against the current pandemic. Hat’s off to those who are developing those creative and novel solutions using AI & DS.
The world will not be the same after this pandemic. However, versatile technologies like AI & DS will remain superheroes on the other side of this episode. These technologies will be helping the world to adapt to new normals. The world will need more creative AI & DS professionals.
This pandemic was a sudden hit. It took us some time to get our heads around what is happening and where. Suddenly, data started flowing from all the directions.
Some creative geniuses quickly utilized disparate data and created COVID 19 trackers. The trackers are very valuable. If we can’t measure, we can’t improve. These trackers also bring forward the gravity of the problem and the alarming growth rate. Natural language processing (NLP) based methods helped to bring together structured and unstructured data.
The immediate next challenge was to predict what’s going to happen next? How fast the infection will spread? Arguably, there is no better technique than AI & DS to answer these questions. Data-driven predictive models and large scale computer simulation studies were done to answer those questions. Those answers were used by governments to prepare well in advance. That includes preparing enough capacity in hospitals, having necessary medical supplies, etc. in place. Businesses used those answers to rework on their supply chain, making sure that essentials remain available.
It was clear that there is no medicine for the treatment of this disease. Proper vaccine development can take more than a year. The entire process is very complex and includes – invention, passing regulatory requirements, and production in bulk. So, until then, the most pragmatic approach is proper management and control.
Lockdowns to manage social distancing is an effective control mechanism. However, the key questions regarding lockdown were – how efficient are lockdowns? at what rate we can expect the spread to get controlled? how long should those lockdowns last? Interestingly enough, most of the answers came from data-driven modeling and simulation.
Machine vision (MV), a key element of the AI technology stack, is playing multiple key roles at a time. MV is used for identifying congested areas where social distancing is compromised. MV is used for identifying people without a mask. MV is decreasing the number of common touching spots, like doorknobs and handles. MV is also used for clinical purposes.
AI & DS’s contribution starts with understanding the structure of the virus. This understanding is fundamental to the development of medicine and vaccine. Radiologists are using 3D machine vision techniques to understand the virus’ attack mechanism within the lungs.
The Pharma industry is extensively using AI & DS technology for drug discovery. This includes the discovery of novel molecules, finding a cost-effective synthesis path, understanding target mechanisms within the human body, and possible side effects. Data and statistics will play a crucial role in the clinical trials of those drugs. And this time it will be even more crucial as we are running against time.
This is not an exhaustive list. AI & DS are used to develop several other creative solutions to fight the battle against COVID 19. Examples in this blog are for inspiring people, and to appreciate the versatility of AI & DS. AI & DS will remain versatile technology on the other side of this pandemic. By that time, the health and pandemic challenges will be replaced by economic and social challenges. More creative applications developed using AI & DS will be required as the world adapts to the new normal. More creative professionals will be required to make it happen.