Emergence of Corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic has taken over almost whole of the world under its affect. A number of people are being getting infected and dying every day from this dangerous infection. Much has already been written about the origin, nature and spreading of the virus as well as precautions to be taken by any individual to be safe. The whole world has been under a lockdown condition for the last two months and nobody knows how long this virus will continue to affect human before its control vaccine is discovered. This article is not aiming to highlight about corona, its effect on the market growth, suffering by the people at different levels (like immigrants, corona warriors etc.), loss of revenue, unemployment as well as industrial loss in general and to electronic industry in particular.
The present crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic all over the world has not only motivated but forced scientists and engineers of all background to come up with ideas or technology to tackle this situation at any level. Biologists and medical professional are well supported by scientists and engineers from sciences and engineering branches in every way they can contribute towards designing the cost effective, fast and portable technological equipments to help in control, test and treat the disease which has affected the whole earth.
Technology in overall has played a great role in combating with the pandemic at various fronts like: positioning technologies, satellite monitoring, drones, robotics, thermal scanners, tracking & surveillance apps, artificial intelligence, facial recognitions, sanitizers, PPE and masks etc. Electronics is an integral part to almost every technological equipment towards its operation, recording and analysis procedures. This article would like to summarize how electronics has been helping in designing and modifying new equipments in order to tackle COVID-19 pandemic.
Role of electronics
The development and implementation of different technological solutions aimed at combating the COVID-19 outbreak are rapidly taking shape around the world. Along with technological, there’s a wide range of electronic devices that are being used independently or in association with other technical equipments in the fight against the corona virus (COVID-19) outbreak like temperature sensors, biosensors and ventilation machines. Those who take an interest in electronics would tinker with ideas and projects for the testing and control of COVID-19 like electronic lights, electronic sensors, electronic masks, electronic filters, and electronic clothes etc. When it comes to the development fast, low cost and effective COVID-19 patient handing medical equipments like ventilators, electronics will always play an important role. The result was a wave of engineers doing just that taking advantage of modular electronic design, 3D printing, and various other maker 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 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and hundreds of 3D printing design engineers and specialists have already created a public document reflecting their eagerness to assist in the production of respirators, valves, masks, etc. Here some of the initiatives well supported by electronics towards tackling COVID-19 are highlighted.
It is agreed that digital platforms can help in containing the crisis and save lives. World needs to embrace other forms of digital technologies that will impact livelihood, accelerate various sectors; strengthen the supply chain and cyber security. A co-ordinated global response using digital technologies is needed to fight covid-19, with greater impetus on strengthening IT and cyber security, in addition to enabling non-personal data exchange in a secure manner and promoting use of digital solutions in healthcare. It is agreed upon that digital platforms not only can help in containing the crisis but all measures taken during and after this crisis must be with a strong focus on building more equal, inclusive and sustainable economies that are more resilient in the face of the ongoing pandemic.
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 spreading 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, smart phones spread scientific reports, involved informed people in their discussions to counter the spread of misinformation and highlight the importance of precautions to be taken in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The electronic media through video conferences and online learning has played an important role during the pandemic time.
Even in todays highly advanced and medically adept society, suppressing the virus has required extreme measures of isolation and social distancing on a scale never seen before and it’s thought that the current crisis could continue for a long time to come and electronic entertainment will be only a source of relaxation for masses to be in a situation of isolation. Electronic gadgets such as laptops and phones have greatly helped people to become increasingly reliant on internet technologies to stay in contact with loved ones.
Electronic assisted medical equipments
Teams of engineers, physicians, computer scientists, and others all over the world are working to development and implement safe and inexpensive alternative medical equipments which could be built quickly around the world. When it comes to the development of low cost critical medical equipments like ventilators, personnel protection equipment (PPE), virus free mask etc. electronic has a great role to play.
Noticing the key symptoms early on is vital for minimizing the spread of the disease and one of the most common ways of doing so in key public places, such as at airports, country borders, city centres etc, has been to remotely record the temperature of people as they pass through designated zones. So, while the tests in the hospitals are conclusively stating whether a person has got the coronavirus, electronic monitoring devices are playing a key role in monitoring the general public at key locations and in locations where there are large clusters of people. While the people in most countries are being told to isolate, there are still places (at the time of writing) where large gatherings and the movement of people is still allowed to happen; and this is where electronic monitoring devices are playing their part in the fight against COVID-19.
There are a number of different monitoring devices out there which are being used to directly tackle the spread of 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. Infra red wave sensors are ideal as they are non-invasive, relatively inexpensive and can be used from a distance. The principle working mechanism of these devices is the detection of the infrared waves which are given off by the human body as a higher number of infrared waves will be emitted by a person with higher body temperature. Internal calibrations from the detector convert the concentration of infrared waves into electricity via a thermopile thus giving temperature as an output. Other devices are much more advanced in nature, such as thermal imaging cameras which give the user a picture of any localized heat spots on the person. Some are even wearable temperature monitoring devices. While thermal imaging cameras are generally more accurate, many of the more basic handheld sensors and monitoring devices are often more than sufficient for recording an accurate enough temperature to tell if someone is running a fever.
Advanced monitoring techniques
Many of the larger analysis methods – from drones to cameras that can measure multiple people simultaneously – also utilize Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and deep learning methods to more accurately analyze the data. AI is also being used to predict and monitor the spread of the disease across countries, to track the news coming out of each country regarding the number of cases of confirmed coronavirus, predict the survival chance of patients with severe coronavirus symptoms, and machine learning is specifically being used on CT scan data to detect coronavirus in patients and take the pressure off frontline radiologists. There are also a number of biosensors being used in the molecular diagnostic platforms (i.e. the diagnostic tools) within hospitals to help with determining if a patient has the coronavirus. So, while temperature sensors are one of the main tools used to fight COVID-19, there are a number of electronics and software programs which are being used at different stages of the fight; and information gained at all stages of detection and care are all vital for developing effective treatments, therapies and vaccines in the near future.
Robotics and drones
The global fight to control corona virus has seen technology in its different means to play an extremely important role in assisting humans and people involved in dealing with the testing and treating of the virus. Robotics has emerged as one of the key technologies that have made a huge difference on the ground to deal with corona virus pandemic. 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 currently using robots to aid both the healthcare workers (corona warriors) and patients. Robots have the possible use towards disinfection (robot-controlled non contact ultraviolet (UV) surface disinfection is being used), delivering medications and food, measuring vital signs, and assisting border controls in order to tackle corona virus. Similarly, drones can be potentially used to carry test kits and medical supplies, cutting delivery time and improving response time for medical authorities. Further, drones are being increasingly used to spray disinfecting chemicals in public spaces and on epidemic prevention vehicles commuting to the infected areas. Drones equipped with thermal imaging technology are being used to detect people with fever/flu symptoms.
Controlling waste disposal
The issue of disposing material like PPE, masks, hand-globes used by corona warriors after being infected is of a great challenge in order of cost as well as safe disposal. The issue raises the question of whether different practices or equipment should be used in such scenarios (such as reusable gowns that can be disinfected). While disposable equipment guarantees zero cross-contamination this same guarantee can still be achieved with non-disposable equipment so long as correct decontamination methods are followed. Some electronic manufacturers have turned their attention towards the development of re-usable medical equipments or equipments which can keep themselves virus free so that waste disposal can be controlled.
Future electronic devices to tackle corona virus
From simple daily life applications to advanced requirements companies around the world are adapting existing products or inventing new gadgets to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. While there are a number of devices out there, it appears that there is a drive for the development of some new electronic or electronic-assisted more cost-effective, portable, feasible, simple COVID-19 fighting devices are summarized as:
- A gadget that helps to open a door without touching the handle
- A device having a chemical-free ozone technology which disinfects the vegetables and fruits by removing harmful pesticides, chemicals, etc. With this device we can make vegetables and fruits safe for consumption
- The multi-functional UV sterilizer and wireless charger claims to kill 99.9% of the germs living on the surface of smartphone, watch, earphone and other gadgets
- A self-cleaning water bottle is a great way to ensure that our drinking water is safe to drink during the pandemic. This bottle uses an internal UV-C light to purify the contents of the water bottle.
- The graphene industry is trying to develop sensors which can be used to detect COVID-19 and 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.
- Electronic companies have also developed wristbands that they claim could assist in containing and preventing the accelerated spread of the virus through high accuracy contact tracing of individuals who test positive for the disease.
- What’s already become very clear in the battle against COVID-19 is the power of the IoT and accurate data analytics to help track down and significantly reduce the infection rate of this terrible virus.
- Electric-field generating fabric, already approved for wound care, appears to destabilize corona virus particles so they are unable to infect cells. Engineers for the first time have demonstrated that a fabric generating a weak electric field can inactivate corona viruses. The electro-ceutical fabric could be used to make face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).
Dr. S. S. VERMA; Department of Physics, S.L.I.E.T., Longowal; Distt.-Sangrur (Punjab)-148 106