The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, the most populous city in Central China, in December 2019. To fight the coronavirus, hospitals were set up in Wuhan in a very short time, with facilities such as intensive care units, medical equipment rooms and quarantine wards.
Huber & Ranner, the German designer and manufacturer of air handling systems, was assigned to quickly deliver and install its ventilation systems and HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) for two hospitals in Wuhan in just a few days. But The Chinese city had to be completely shut down to prevent further spread of the pathogen. Sending Huber & Ranner’s technical staff from Germany to supervise the installation of the ventilation systems in Wuhan was quite risky. This is where BlinkIN, a Bengaluru-based intelligent visual-assistance company played a key role by providing its tech support to address the crisis. It helped service engineers of Huber & Ranner to install air ventilation systems in two hospitals in Wuhan, remotely.
“Huber & Ranner uses BlinkIN to power their customer support service (platform) X-Care, which was very elemental for setting up and maintaining the shipped ventilation units for the two hospitals in Wuhan,” says Dhiraj Choudhary, co-founder of BlinkIN. The company’s platform helped to install several ventilation machines in Wuhan hospitals. “Whenever they need any troubleshooting or maintenance, they are using BlinkIN to help them out.”
Choudhary says he never thought that the technology platform of his company would have such a massive social impact. “It brings us a lot of satisfaction and pride that we are able to contribute (in the fight against coronavirus) using technology.”
An alumnus of Biju Patnaik University of Technology (BPUT), Odisha, Choudhary co-founded the company in 2017 along with college friend Nitin Kumar, and Harshwardhan Kumar, an alumnus of College of Engineering Bhubaneshwar and German entrepreneur Josef S.
Incubated at Nasscom Centre of Excellence, BlinkIN empowers support teams across the globe to deliver a visual customer experience. This significantly enhances the quality of the service, reduces field visits and cuts down travel cost and decreases downtime. The firm said that someone's ability to physically experience or utilise their skills in another location is restricted by the barriers of time and distance.
With BlinkIN, no app or software installation is required. Customers or field engineers are able to securely connect and instantly share live video and photos of the issue with the remote expert. The experts can then guide them using a live pointer and augmented reality (AR) screen annotations. This allows for a dramatic decrease in explanation time and near-instant diagnosis of the problem.
“There are challenges with audio and video platforms as you cannot point to something when you are providing guidance,” says Choudhary. “We are addressing this by providing intuitive communication.”
BlinkIN offers ‘Scotty’ an artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR)-powered live video calling system. The agent is able to handhold users and guides them using augmented on-screen annotations and live pointers overlaid on their screen. This helps to seamlessly transport human skills and knowledge to the exact location where and when they are needed. The company also offers ‘Huston’, an AI-powered self-service system powered by a virtual agent. This helps a user leveraging the expertise of senior engineers, on a smartphone.
As of today, BlinkIN is active in 43 countries. Choudhary says there are several applications of the platform which can be quite helpful for companies during the pandemic, especially when their employees work from home.
Nearly 6,000 people have died and over 150,000 have been infected globally due to coronavirus outbreak. About 73,000 victims have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the virus.
Several tech companies are making efforts to tackle the pandemic. Microsoft Bing team has launched a web portal for tracking COVID-19 infections and an interactive map to monitor its spread worldwide. The website, available at bing.com/covid, provides up-to-date infection statistics for each country.
DeepMind, an AI company owned by Alphabet, is using its existing work to help researchers combat COVID-19. The London-based lab recently said it hopes to contribute to the scientific effort using the latest version of its AlphaFold system to release structural predictions of several under-studied proteins associated with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. DeepMind also said these structural predictions have not been experimentally verified, but those night contribute to the scientific community’s interrogation of how the virus functions, and serve as a hypothesis generation platform for future experimental work in developing therapeutics.
Tech giant IBM plans to work with medical institutions and practitioners by providing support in the development of drugs to combat the coronavirus outbreak. The firm plans to use its IBM clinical development (ICD) system to help speed up the development of key drugs in fighting the virus. ICD is a unified, SaaS-based data capture solution created to provide end-to-end visibility and management capabilities for patients, sites and clinical trials.
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba claimed, its new AI-powered diagnosis system can identify coronavirus infections with 96 per cent accuracy via computerised tomography scans. The diagnosis algorithm was created by Alibaba's research institute, Damo Academy.
Many tech start-ups are also making efforts to fight the disease. In China, DJI drones are delivering health advice while ‘Little Peanut’ delivery robot is serving food to quarantined patients. XAG, an agritech firm, is providing large-scale disinfectant spray services.