Role Of Electronics In Combating Covid-19

By Dr S.S. Verma

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With the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, a wide range of electronic devices have been developed that are being used independently or in association with other technical equipment to combat coronavirus. Electronic devices such as thermal scanners, biosensors, etc, are playing a crucial role in preventing the spread of the virus.

The outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic has affected the whole world in innumerable ways. The number of cases is increasing and the situation is becoming worse with each passing day. To restrict further spread of the virus, mass events or gatherings have been cancelled, and lockdowns and travel restrictions have been imposed in most of the countries. This, in turn, has affected market growth and people at different levels.

The present crisis due to Covid-19 has forced scientists and engineers to come up with ideas or technologies to deal with this situation. Biologists and medical professionals, along with scientists and engineers, are contributing towards designing cost-effective, fast, and portable technological equipment to control, test, and treat the disease, which has affected the whole world.

Technologies such as satellite monitoring, drones, robotics, thermal scanners, tracking and surveillance apps, artificial intelligence, and more are playing a great role in fighting against the pandemic at various fronts. This article covers how electronics has been helping in designing and modifying new equipment in order to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.

A low-cost ventilator
A low-cost ventilator (Credit: https://m.economictimes.com/news/science)

Role of electronics

The development and implementation of different technological solutions aimed for combat Coronavirus are rapidly taking shape around the world. There’s a wide range of electronic devices that are being used independently or in association with other equipment in the fight against coronavirus like temperature sensors, biosensors, and ventilation machines.

Engineers are taking advantage of modular electronic design, 3D printing, and various other skills to create prototypes of devices that could be critical in the fight against Covid-19. For example, 3D printing can be used to help produce vital hospital supplies. 3D-printing design engineers and specialists are already assisting in the production of respirators, valves, masks, etc. Here are some of the initiatives well supported by electronics towards tackling Covid-19.

Digital initiatives

Digital platforms can help in containing the crisis and save lives. The world needs to embrace other forms of digital technologies as well that will impact livelihood, accelerate various sectors, and strengthen the supply chain and cybersecurity. A coordinated global response using digital technologies is needed to fight Covid-19, with greater impetus on strengthening IT and cybersecurity. For instance, there is a need to enable non-personal data exchange in a secure manner and promote the use of digital solutions in healthcare.

Information provider

The pandemic has highlighted how communication and information dissemination, which promotes accuracy and credibility while preventing the spread of misinformation, is the next level of collaboration in governance. Electronic communication media has played a great role in creating awareness on subjects related to Covid-19, as well as in countering the misinformation related to Covid-19, which otherwise might have created panic in masses.

Different electronic media like television, radio and smartphones show scientific reports, involve informed people in discussions to counter the spread of misinformation, and highlight the importance of precautions to be taken in the wake of coronavirus outbreak. The electronic media through video conferences and online learning has played an important role during the pandemic time.

Electronic entertainment

Even in today’s highly advanced and medically adept society, suppressing the virus has required extreme measures of isolation and social distancing on a scale never seen before. It’s not yet clear how long the current situation would prevail, and in such times of social distancing, electronic entertainment is the only source of relaxation for masses.

Electronic gadgets such as laptops and phones have greatly helped people to stay in contact with their loved ones.

Electronic assisted medical equipment

Teams of engineers, physicians, computer scientists, and others all over the world are working to develop and implement safe and inexpensive alternative medical equipment that could be built quickly around the world. When it comes to the development of low-cost critical medical equipment like ventilators, personnel protection equipment (PPE), virus-free masks, etc, electronics plays a great role.

Temperature recording

There are a number of monitoring devices being used to detect Covid-19 by recording the temperature of the general public. Regardless of the level of technology, all such devices make use of remote temperature detection method to measure the temperature of the person/a group of people with the use of infrared waves.

Infrared wave sensors are ideal as these are non-invasive, relatively inexpensive, and can be used from a distance. Internal calibrations from the detector convert the concentration of infrared waves into electricity via a thermopile, thus giving temperature as an output.

Other advanced devices such as thermal imaging cameras detect the temperature by recognising and capturing different levels of infrared light. This light is invisible to the naked eye, but can be felt as heat if the intensity is high enough

While thermal imaging cameras are generally more accurate, other basic hand-held sensors and monitoring devices are often more than sufficient for recording peoples’ temperature.

Thermal cameras for temperature screening (Credit: https://assets.crowncommercial.gov.uk/wp-content)
Thermal cameras for temperature screening (Credit: https://assets.crowncommercial.gov.uk/wp-content)

Advanced monitoring techniques

Other emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and deep learning methods help analyse the data more accurately. AI is being used to predict and monitor the spread of the disease across countries, track the news regarding the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus, and predict the survival chance of patients with severe coronavirus symptoms.

Machine learning is specifically being used on CT scan data to detect coronavirus in patients. There are also a number of biosensors being used in molecular diagnostic platforms within hospitals to help determine if a patient has coronavirus. So, while temperature sensors are one of the main tools being used to fight Covid-19, there are a number of electronic gadgets and software programs that are being used at different stages of the fight. The information gained at all stages of detection and care is vital for developing effective treatments, therapies, and vaccines in the near future.

Robotics and drones

Robotics has emerged as one of the key technologies in the fight against Covid-19. Not only municipalities are using robots for disinfection of places in a fast and safe manner, but a large number of hospitals across the globe are also using robots to provide support to healthcare workers and patients as well. Robots are also helping in delivering medicines and food supplies to coronavirus patients.

Robots are providing support to patients across the globe helping combat coronavirus
Robots are providing support to patients across the globe (Credit: www.bing.com)

Similarly, drones are also being used to carry test kits and medical supplies. These are also being used to spray disinfecting chemicals in public spaces. Drones equipped with thermal imaging technology are being used to detect people with fever/flu symptoms.

Some electronic devices to tackle coronavirus

Chemical-free ozone technology that disinfects vegetables and fruits by removing harmful pesticides, chemicals, etc (Credit: https://yandex.com)
Chemical-free ozone technology that disinfects vegetables and fruits by removing harmful pesticides, chemicals, etc (Credit: https://yandex.com)

Companies, researchers and scientists around the world are busy developing new gadgets to help fight Covid-19 pandemic. Here’s a list of some electronic devices (some of which are already available) that could help tackle coronavirus:

  • A gadget that helps open a door without touching the handle
  • A device having a chemical-free ozone technology that disinfects vegetables and fruits by removing harmful pesticides, chemicals, etc. With this device, vegetables and fruits can become safer for consumption.
  • A self-cleaning water bottle is a great way to ensure that drinking water is safe during the pandemic.
  • The graphene industry is trying to develop sensors that can be used to detect Covid-19. The USA has already announced that it is working on a graphene biosensor that can run tests for several different viruses simultaneously and is very inexpensive.
  • The power of IoT and accurate data analytics can help track down and significantly reduce the infection rate of this virus.

Dr S.S. Verma is professor at Department of Physics, Sant Longowal Institute of Engineering and Technology, Sangrur, Punjab

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