A Pandemic in the Constantly Changing Age of Modern Technology

The cult classic movie Back to the Future predicts the rise of many innovative technologies to become norms in our everyday lives. One prediction included a drone walking a dog.

And it happened. On 20th March 2020, a man in Cyprus was filmed walking his dog with his drone while he was on his couch at home. Video calling technologies are now an everyday necessity for work, school and socialising. Virtual reality is being used to hold events such as weddings and birthday parties. 

This is the future. 

But this is a dystopian future amid a deadly global pandemic. 

COVID-19 enveloped our globe in a sheet of fear, panic and grief as quickly as the information could reach our fingertips, whether through social media feeds or online news outlets. The virus is comparable to the speed and contagion of the 1918 Spanish Flu. The critical difference between 1918 and now is that we have the advantage of modern technology. With social distancing being a key preventer of this virus, the need for innovative advanced technology is more significant than ever.

Singapore and China are using robots and flying drones for a wide range of jobs, from cleaning hospitals and sanitising streets, to delivering medical supplies to remote and quarantined areas. Autonomous self-driving vehicles can provide food and other supplies to different cities. The identification of irregular body temperatures is possible through the use of AI-powered thermal cameras and glasses. Devices can be placed on the front doors of self-isolating individuals which will send an alert to authorities if the door is opened.

Countries such as the UK, South Korea, India and Hong Kong have introduced location tracking apps for quarantined or infected people. Some of these apps give real-time updates to non-infected people to stay clear of any quarantined areas.

In NZ, 3D printers are producing plastic visor shields for healthcare workers. 

In the US, ‘Vici’ the robot is the main point of communication between one patient and his doctors. In China, ‘Little Peanut’ brings food to patients in hotels as well as completing the task of picking up rubbish and bedsheets. 

BioStickers can measure a person’s temperature, respiratory rate, heart rate, and coughing and can transmit updates every 10 minutes to a medical team. GermFalcon is a robot that uses ultraviolet-C lamps to sanitise planes to kill germs from surfaces and the surrounding air. Similar lamps are available for buses and trains. 

While innovation has emerged at the forefront of the response to COVID-19, it is also a necessity for helping all of us maintain our daily routines at home. Nationwide lockdowns and contactless communication have changed the way we function as a world in just a few months. Businesses are required to think innovatively to integrate new technologies into their way of work so that employees can work from home. Schools have had to think about how to redirect learning content online. 

Apps such as Zoom, HouseParty and Skype have become #1 in app stores with fitness apps following close behind. We live in an age where we no longer need (nor can) go outside for exercise. 

And the thing is, modern technology has been in our lives for many years now. But when comparing COVID-19 with the last pandemic in 2009, we can really see the difference in how new ideas and new emerging technologies can shape the modern world in a mere decade. This pandemic has forced us to utilise our technology in innovative and unique ways that we would never have dreamed of before. We are always adapting, always innovating and always thinking about the future. 

These were just a few examples of how innovative thinking and new technologies have been playing a part in combating the fight against COVID-19. And who knows, maybe tomorrow someone might come up with an even more cutting-edge idea that could shape how we fight pandemics in the future. 

“Sometimes the pace of innovation in digital technologies can be held back by infrastructure, financing and bureaucratic constraints. When faced with a challenge like responding to the coronavirus outbreak, there are strong incentives to overcome these constraints quickly and put new technologies and ideas to the test.” – Jonathan Tanner, digital consultant at the Overseas Development Institute think tank.

 

– Annie Mei 
Bcom/BSc conjoint, majoring in Information Systems and Computer Science