Over recent weeks we have heard world leaders and scientists talk about Covid-19 coronavirus being the greatest threat our society has faced in a generation. Healthcare technology is being used to identify coronavirus symptoms, find new treatments and monitor the spread of the disease, which has so far infected more than 425,000* people worldwide (*as of 25 March 2020). Many countries are now turning to the use of robots to help in the fight against coronavirus.
Spain has invested in robots to automate the testing of citizens for the Covid-19 coronavirus and plan to increase daily testing from about 20,000 a day to 80,000, by using four robots to apply artificial intelligence (AI) to testing.
Speaking at a conference on Saturday 21 March, Raquel Yotti, head of Madrid’s health institute, said: “A plan to automate tests through robots has already been designed and Spain has committed to buying four robots that will allow us to execute 80,000 tests per day.”
The reason for this is clear. As coronavirus spreads from person to person, testing is one of the best ways to control the disease but testing has cost and resource limitations. Introducing AI and robot technology may ease these problems, while reducing transmission and exposure to the virus from patient to health care professionals.
In China, disinfecting robots, smart helmets, thermal camera-equipped drones and advanced facial recognition software are all being used in the fight against Covid-19. Last month President Xi Jinping called on the Chinese technology sector to help battle the epidemic.
Robots to the rescue
Several Chinese firms have developed automated technologies for contactless delivery, spraying disinfectants and performing basic diagnostic functions, in order to minimise the risk of cross-infection. Pudu Technology, which usually makes robots for the catering industry, has reportedly installed its machines in more than 40 hospitals around the country to help medical staff.
Robots in transit
In Denmark, UVD Robots started development work on the Ultra Violet Disinfection (UVD) Robot in 2014, when a group of Danish hospitals demanded a far more effective way of reducing infection rates in hospitals. The collaboration between bacteriologists, virologists and hospital staff from hospitals, and robot developers, designers, engineers and investors led to the product’s release in 2018.
Right now, Danish disinfection robots are being shipped at great speed to areas most affected by the coronavirus, and the first robots are already active in hospitals in Wuhan, helping to prevent the spread of infection. Using ultraviolet light, UVD robots can move around autonomously and disinfect and kill viruses and bacteria limiting the spread of coronaviruses without exposing hospital staff to the risk of infection. CEO of UVD Robots, Per Juul Nielsen, has commented that “In a severe crisis like this where the world health is threatened, our innovative technology really proves its worth.”