Technology innovation a key weapon in the COVID-19 battle
The changes being wrought by the Novel Coronavirus have forced technology companies to come up with new and out-of-the-box solutions to keep workers safe and the economy ticking.
The impact COVID-19 has had on global societies has led to it being repeatedly referred to as a ‘once in a century pandemic’. While there is a certain amount of truth in this, as the similarly devastating ‘Spanish Flu’ swept the world just over a 100 years ago, the modern world has something new in its armoury to fight such diseases – namely, technology.
Technology has been applied judiciously to ensure the safety of everyone from members of the public to office staff to those on the frontline, enabling all to work more safely, as humanity as a whole deals with new challenges arising from the pandemic.
Uwe Niske, senior sales director for sub-Saharan Africa at Motorola Solutions, points out that technology has proven to be key in helping us to stay connected with one another – in terms of friends, family and colleagues – and it has also kept many businesses operational through what have been extremely challenging and turbulent times.
“Apart from enabling collaboration, technology has played a key role in everything from government contact tracing apps designed to contain and stop the spread of the virus, to police body-cameras helping to ensure public safety through accountability and safe social distancing. One thing that is clear is the need for even more innovative technologies to support public safety, both during and after the pandemic,” he says.
“When South Africa begins to move into the next phase of its response to the disease, the demands on technology from frontline personnel will obviously have to continue to evolve, in order to meet their changing requirements. Just as collaboration tools redefined the 'new normal' for office workers, so too will technology shape a new future for public safety.”
Already, the impact of current technologies has been felt in the frontline sectors, enabling many key workers to manage their critical daily tasks while still respecting social distancing requirements, allowing them to keep both themselves and the public safe.
“For example, emergency services organisations are using a combination of enhanced radio communication, software and video tools to work safely in the field. Ambulance workers can minimise the risk of infection by using specialist audio accessories with features such as bone-conduction. This enhanced hands-free capability ensures that those wearing masks or other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) can clearly hear who they are communicating with.”
“Meanwhile, wearable video cameras help to increase the responsibility and transparency between security personnel – like police – and citizens. CCTV solutions are starting to become more sophisticated too: when these are combined with analytics technologies, they can automatically detect whether individuals are wearing face masks, measure the distance between people and even count crowds in office buildings and public areas.”
Police forces around the world are also currently exploring other remote solutions, continues Niske, including apps that allow police to collect testimony remotely, while integrated video security tools with advanced software provide additional ways for public safety and the protection of critical infrastructure.
“It is important to note that while these solutions incorporate artificial intelligence and are thus useful in filtering vast amounts of video data for the purpose of locating critical information and improving decision-making, they do not replace people. Artificial intelligence applications work best when augmenting the human role, by drawing the focus of human attention to only those cases where security forces are required.
“Technology is clearly demonstrating its vitality in reducing damages to industries and the economy at a time when protective measures are forcing us to keep our distance from one another. The challenge of COVID-19 is to deliver technology to help those on the frontline work more safely and efficiently. This, in turn, has forced technology companies to truly understand what essential employees need and tailor their solutions with out-of-the-box thinking, in order to meet these new market demands,” concludes Niske.