This article was published in paid partnership with Siemens. Siemens is only paying for my time, not for my opinions.
Six months on, the coronavirus pandemic is still raging. As companies look for technologies to alleviate the impact, one frontrunner has proven Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Before the pandemic, the debate was raging over the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation on humans’ jobs, but during this difficult time, the technologies are supporting humanity in conquering the deadly virus. From identifying infection hotspots to facilitating diagnosis, research or keeping workers safe, AI and automation play a central role in tackling the pandemic.
AI and automation’s role in the Containment of Covid-19 Pandemic
To improve COVID-19 therapy, we need more data. As the virus continues to spread, more and more cases must be read, annotated, and prioritized by the radiologists. An AI-powered analysis of radiological images has the potential to reduce this growing burden on radiologists, speed up their reading time and accuracy. That is why Siemens partnered with a few universities and frontline hospitals to develop a new algorithm to support the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The algorithm is designed to identify and quantify abnormal tomographic patterns in the lungs automatically.
To slow down the virus’s spreading and contain it, China uses drones to share information on loudspeakers, carrying signs with QR codes (for no-contact registration purposes), spraying disinfectant, and delivering packages, and taking people’s temperatures. Infrared thermal imaging has proven to be more accurate than human-conducted readings, and it also helps better contain the virus.
A few hospitals across Beijing, Zhejiang, Guangdong, Hubei, and Hunan use zero-contact distribution server robots. Medical staff place items on robots, robots go to patients’ doors, and patients receive items contact-free. After completing a route, robots automatically return to the nurse’s station, where they are disinfected and continue delivery. Robots don’t take human jobs; they are working together with humans.
AI helps utilities to adapt to electricity demands
AI has been used in the last few months by a few utility companies to address fluctuations in energy usage resulting from COVID-19.
Innowatts, a startup focused on energy monitoring and management, ingests data from over 34 million smart energy meters across 21 million customers in more than 13 regional energy markets. Simultaneously, its machine learning algorithms analyze the data to forecast short- and long-term loads, variances, weather sensitivity, etc. All the data and forecasting models help utilities to make better decisions and make real-time changes.
Autogrid, another company that uses AI, makes 10 million predictions every 10 minutes and optimizes over 50 megawatts of power, enough to supply an average suburb.
AI and machine learning isn’t a silver bullet for the power grid, but it helps to prevent the worst of the Covid-19’s effects by enabling companies to better adjust to shifted daily and weekly power load profiles.
The “new normal” in the manufacturing industry
Manufacturers have to reduce human density in factories to comply with social distancing rules. Siemens has developed a unique workplace distancing solution that helps manufacturers to simulate and manage employee exposure risks. With SIMATIC Real-Time Locating Systems (RTLS), companies can measure distances between workers and create a log of all movements and interactions.
Humans and robots have strengths and weaknesses, which is why a human-in-the-loop model makes sense for manufacturers embracing automation in the new era. Veo Roboticsis, through its Veo FreeMove system will help soon manufacturers coordinate robots and humans’ best attributes. In the context of the Covid-19 era, it means that instead of having two humans working closely together in a work cell, you will have a human and a robot working together.
AI and automation definitely have an impact on how companies and processes will evolve in the near future and will give an advantage to those who leverage technology. The question is, how prepared are manufacturers to adjust and how open they are to invest in AI & automation, taking into account the economic uncertainty created by Covid-19?
AI should not be viewed as a threat, rather as an opportunity. Covid-19 accelerated the rate of adoption of AI and soon AI will be much like electricity, present in every industry, yet few ponder to acknowledge its existence.