Ask TechDesign PM: Technologies Help Fight Coronavirus

Q: What are some of the technologies used to fight the coronavirus?

A: While there are several symptoms of coronavirus infection, the principal one used for detection is fever. If one’s body temperature is elevated, there is a stronger possibility that one has been infected. For temperature detection technology of the human body, in addition to the traditional type which requires contact with the body, the most prevalent one being used is the “thermal camera” that we now see when entering and leaving many airports worldwide. It can also be called “thermal imager”. The fact that this is non-contact makes it very convenient to use.

The thermal imager works by detecting the infrared radiation from the human body through optical sensors, then converting the infrared radiation into an image, and comparing the difference against the temperature of surrounding objects. Although the temperature measurement is not quite as accurate as the direct contact method, it is very convenient and quite good compared to other technologies, so it is currently widely used.

Thermal cameras also have a wide array of uses in forest fire prevention, power equipment care, maritime search and rescue, etc.. With its coming integration with 5G & AI technology, its application should become even more extensive.


Q: What can you utilize for personal monitoring during the coronavirus outbreak?

A: Everyone knows the 2019-nCoV common symptoms at the onset of illness are fever (98%), cough (76%), and myalgia or fatigue (44%). However, some studies have indicated that dyspnea (difficult breathing) has developed in 55% of cases and the average time from illness onset to dyspnoea is 8 days. Thus, in addition to taking your temperature, checking the quality of your breathing can help monitor your health as well. A smart breath checker will help you to know if your breathing condition is strong or not. EzOxygen, winner of a 2019 CES Innovation Award, utilizes ultrasonic technology and connects your breathing data with big data cloud services to monitor your breathing health. You can learn your breath status by monitoring three values: Peak Expiratory Flow (PEF), Forced Expiratory Volume in one second (FEV1), and Forced Vital Capacity (FVC). You can analyze your own data or bring these physiological stats to consult with doctors if figures look abnormal. Aside from the coronavirus, ezOxygen can help to detect other forms of lung disease in their early stages as well.


Q: What technologies could benefit hospitals during the coronavirus outbreak?

The 2019-nCoV has been spreading quickly, exhausting hospitals’ available resources, both in terms of equipment and personnel. In Wuhan, new hospitals have been constructed to handle the large number of cases. In such situations, having a way to monitor all the new hospital beds with minimal personnel and infrastructure is very important. MmWave technology can be very useful in such situations.

Because mmWave sensors run at a very high frequency of 77GHz with millimeter-level wavelengths, they can detect very small amplitudes and movements, e.g., the action of breathing. Thus, through the use of data algorithms, this technology can be used to detect small changes in a patient’s breathing situation and alert doctors to emergency situations. Another advantage is that mmWave is a radio frequency wave, so it can monitor several patients at a time, which is not possible with typical individual sensors. This is particularly important in resource constrained situations like currently in Wuhan. In this situation, mmWave sensors are far superior to cameras which have difficulty processing tiny variations in weak light conditions.


Q: How can our household furniture help in monitoring our health during coronavirus outbreak?

A: The outbreak of the coronavirus is a major health threat to city-dwellers. While there are a handful of tools that provide protection from an infection such as a face mask, at TechDesign, we offer IoT tech solutions which can be useful for detecting changes in user’s behaviors which might be an indicator for early symptoms of health condition deterioration.

For instance, we have a smart sensing mattress solution which detects user’s activities on their beds through pressure sensors. Movement will be recorded and transferred to a cloud server for real time monitoring, and if any abnormality is detected, a push notification will be sent to the user or his/her family member’s smart phone. As the mattress is antibacterial, it stays clean and hygienic. If you have already developed a smart healthcare device and are looking for other solutions to be integrated with your existing services, this can be done through cloud API so that the analyzed data can also be forwarded to your cloud for more comprehensive analytics of users’ health condition.


Q: What has been the impact of the Corona virus on Chinese suppliers?

A: Starting from Chinese New Year, many Chinese suppliers stopped operations and some still have not resumed fully or at all.
Factory capacities remain well below pre-Chinese New Year levels for a few reasons:
1. Many employees have not returned to the factories due to either still being in quarantine or continuing to work from home. Employers are cautious as well – despite government policies requesting suppliers to resume work, many suppliers do not want to risk having everyone back to work and instead allow many to still work from home.
2. Material shortages are also playing a role, as the factory disruptions have resulted in missing inputs for production, which has a cascading effect across the supply chain.
3. Suppliers are seeing many previous orders cancelled or postponed indefinitely due to both a sharp drop in consumer demand and due to many customers temporarily suspending their own operations in accordance with their governments’ guidelines.

In the face of these challenges, Chinese suppliers are quickly adjusting. Below are a few observations:
1. Suppliers are proactively scaling back their production and investment in down sectors. Particularly in consumer products, suppliers are reducing their forecasts to avoid building up excessive inventory.
2. Instead, suppliers are reallocating resources to produce healthcare-related products. They are sensing a potential big opportunity as well as a way to keep their factories busy and their company above water. For example, Gaoyitech, a Shenzhen supplier of chargers are car peripherals has now shifted to producing temperature guns and disposable masks.
3. Quality of these new healthcare products may suffer. In order to rapidly scale up to meet global demand, suppliers are adding capacity as quickly as possible, but quality takes time to improve – time the world currently does not have.


Q: Are there any technologies to help with the new reality of social distancing?

A: Many governments around the world are asking people to work from home and to practice social distancing in the midst of the worldwide Corona virus outbreak. While this is very necessary to contain the outbreak, isolating at home for a long time can be lonely and depressing. While communication software such as Zoom and Slack are handy for working remotely, they don’t offer much help with the mental side of things – such as asking how you’re feeling right now. Don’t worry, there are many smart gadget solutions on TechDesign that can take good care of you and even give a little boost to your work performance.

Mood translator is a light-weighted, pock-sized sensor device that visualizes changes in your emotion via an app. By processing vital sign readings such as heart rate from your fingertips with a proprietary mood-recognition algorithm, it enables you to have a more comprehensive understanding of your feelings in a non-intrusive way. Mood change is being measured and visualized on the app in 5 levels from calm to tense, and stress level from low to high. What’s more, it can also be used for breath training during mediation to relieve you from stress and anxiety.

At a time of great uncertainty, we all need some help from each other – and from technology.

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