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Six great innovations of COVID-19

5 May 2020

If there’s one good thing to come out of this Coronavirus pandemic, it’s the innovations and solutions devised, that will ensure we are better equipped to handle outbreaks in the future… and no, we’re not referring to the simple, yet effective hand wash or sanitiser solutions.

We took a look into some of the interesting technology and practices to emerge, and have chosen six unique innovations that would be helpful during COVID-19… or any globally-spread disease in the future.

1. Thermal imaging and heat monitoring devices:

Thermal imaging cameras have the ability to detect elevated body temperature and while they can’t be relied upon to detect or diagnose COVID-19, or any virus, they are effective at detecting small variances in the surface temperature of people*.

As a result, thermal imaging cameras are a useful tool in screening for people that could be showing symptoms of a viral infection. From places with high people traffic (airports, train stations) to low traffic flow (hotel/ apartment lobby, workplace entrance), there are products on the market to suit varying needs. Think about having one in the lobby of your apartment block or entrance to an aged care or disability facility – these devices could screen visitors, cleaners, carers, residents or anyone else that walks through the door for safety purposes*.

Another great innovation is the pandemic drone, developed by a University of South Australia professor, Javaan Chahl in collaboration with Canadian drone-tech firm, Draganfly. According to Smithsonian Magazine, they created a “drone-based system that could help local authorities around the world identify or predict COVID-19 hotspots.”**

According to the ABC, “the device uses thermal cameras and artificial intelligence to measure some of the indicators of coronavirus in groups of people: heart rate, body temperature, coughing and sneezing.”^

Chahl said this information can help local authorities understand “where the virus might be”, to map out hotspots. The plan is to integrate the technology onto remote cameras and drones, whereby “the stationary camera could potentially help hospitals and care facilities monitor their premises. Drones could watch over public events such as football matches.”**

Draganfly CEO Cameron Chell said “it can be used as as part of a global early warning system, so population health can now become just one of those additional pieces of data that people are looking at.”**

2. Home delivery app temperatures

Going out for dinner to a restaurant isn’t possible right now, so its no wonder the food delivery apps are proving successful – people get their favourite restaurant food delivered straight to their door, without the risk. In Australia, food delivery apps have incorporated ‘no-contact delivery’ to protect both delivery drivers and homeowners.

However, in China, food delivery apps have taken precautions to another level. They are displaying the body temperature of the delivery driver on the app to the customer. Such a good idea that delivery apps in India, such as Zomato, have followed suit.

According to India Today, “when you place an order, you will be assigned a delivery executive. Once the rider has picked the order from the restaurant, you will be able to see the rider’s body temperature on the app.”^^

While we acknowledge there could be some issues with privacy, it’s not a bad idea. If anything, customers will have increased confidence in their chosen delivery app due to their transparency and willingness to go that extra mile to protect a customer.

3. Hands-free door openers

Source: Medscape

Have you ever washed or sanitised your hands, only to find you need to open a door immediately afterwards? According to Medscape, Coronavirus can persist on surfaces for up to five days, so who knows what bacteria is on the door handle.

This is where a hygiene-friendly door hook would be helpful. As mentioned by the World Economic Forum, door hooks “could be a game-changer in environments such as hospital wards, where hand sanitation is a matter of life and death.”*^

The ‘hygienehook’, created by UK-based designer Steve Brooks, is one option on the market that is “small enough to fit in a pocket and made from easy-to-clean non-porous material.”*^

It sounds basic, but its an innovation that could prove very helpful in certain environments.

4. Health mirror

The WHO-recommended hand washing process

Now, it a mirror might not sound like the best innovation but you’ll get why we’ve included it in our list soon. We all know we need to wash our hands often, but how many of us stick to the World Health Organisation recommended 35-second multi-step hand washing process?

The Miaza Mirror, developed by social innovation engineer Kanav Kahol, was originally designed in 2018 to be a smart mirror, along the lines of smart phones and speakers. When COVID-19 came along, Kahol noted “correct handwashing protocol isn’t a desirable anymore, it’s a requirement,”** which is what motivated him to further develop his mirror into something more. Now, the mirror “can detect the presence of a person as soon as they wave at it, and then it walks them through the multi-step hand-washing process recommended by the WHO.”** This means “users don’t have to rely on their memory to remember each and every step of the complex process.”**

Around the world, proper hand-washing behaviour isn’t always commonplace, despite it being on of the more effective ways to reduce the spread of viruses, such as COVID-19. As quoted by the Smithsonian Magazine, Kahol says behaviour “needs to be reinforced every time. So this idea that ‘I can just produce a pamphlet and [behaviour change] will happen’ doesn’t work.”**

Our idea of sanitation has changed forever, thanks to COVID-19, so having these sorts of mirrors available in public places, such as shopping centres, offices and schools, could help to reinforce the hand-washing habit permanently.

A screenshot of the COVIDSafe app

5. Australian Government COVIDSafe app

Despite it carrying criticisms about data protection, the Australian Government-initiated, voluntary COVIDSafe app is worth a mention. As mentioned by the Department of Health, “the COVIDSafe app is part of our work to slow the spread of COVID-19. Downloading the app is something you can do to protect you, your family and friends and save the lives of other Australians. It speeds up the process for notifying people who may have been exposed to Coronavirus.”

The app works by recognising other devices with the COVIDSafe app installed and Bluetooth enabled. If you come in close proximity with someone who has tested positive for the virus and you both have the app installed and activated, you will be alerted to your potential exposure, prompting a test or isolation. The app does not trace your location, it is simply a proximity detector to assist with slowing the spread of COVID-19.***

6. Smart home solutions and voice control

Last, but not least, we arrive at the smart home. In a previous article, we wrote about using your voice to control your home. At home, its easy to forget about some of the ways viruses can spread when you’re among family or friends. Coronavirus can survive on some surfaces for up to nine days, which means your light switch or communal iPad or tablet can have a significant deposit of germs present at any given time.

If you’ve got yourself a smart home, make sure you’ve got one that allows for voice, touch or app control, like Quantify’s. In times like this, where the less you touch, the better,  you can use Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant smart speaker devices to hygienically control your smart home. This means there will be fewer opportunities to exchange germs with others, with simple things like turning lights on or off, opening or closing blinds, turning on the TV or appliances.

Google Home Mini – Charcoal

In an aged care or disability facility, hygiene becomes even more critical, where those over 60 or those who are disabled, at a far greater risk of serious complications, or even death, if they contract COVID-19 or another virus.

This is where smart home voice control can be exceptionally effective. Voice activation can eliminate any possible bacteria transmission associated with the touching of switches, buttons or remotes in a room, meaning a lower risk of infection, both for residents and for those caring or visiting their loved ones.

The beauty of Quantify’s solution, unlike other smart home companies, is the platform can integrate with third party technologies and innovations in the future. This will enable an all-inclusive and more comprehensive solution for the home, meaning homeowners or residents can live safer and more hygienic lives.

 

We don’t know about you, but these six innovations are pretty nifty and we believe they’ll change the way we are able to respond to pandemics like this in the future.

*Reduction Revolution
**Smithsonian Magazine
^ ABC News
^^India Today
*^World Economic Forum
***ABC News

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