How robots and other tech help make the fight against Covid-19 safer

People often feel resentment or apprehension towards robots due to the rising amount of automated labor. However, humans and robots have proven to work together to save lives in a crisis, as demonstrated by the coronavirus pandemic.  There happens to be an intensified risk for human workers amid the COVID-19 epidemic, and for this reason, robotics and other technologies, like telehealth gadgets and drones, are being used in various capacities and settings to aid with the response.

“In a catastrophe, you don’t just start over completely. It takes decades to build dependable systems.”

In contrast to the common assumption, the coronavirus outbreak caused much of the disruption, most of the tech was commercially available prior to the outbreak. Though the virus has decimated shipping lanes, icy port conditions and led to shortages in food and manufactured goods, the coronavirus outbreak has not been the only cause.  These days, “they are being utilized all the time and are being fitted to match the requirements of those in use of them,” added Murphy. “In a catastophe, you don’t just start over completely. It takes decades to build dependable systems.” In the United States, robots are being used to protect people now in two ways.

Patient care

Robotic technology with human-like features assisted in providing care for the very first patient in America to be diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus. The patient, a man in his mid-thirties, recently returned from his travels to Wuhan in China. He was treated at the Providence Regional Health Center located in Everett, Washington, in late January.  Providence Health System’s officer for primary medical technology, Dr. Todd Czartoski, said “squads of caregivers had been preparing and establishing protocols to care for patients with highly infectious diseases since the Ebola outbreak in 2014.” To achieve a sense of professionalism and objectivity, it is necessary to back up statements with facts, evidence, and expert opinion. Many hospitals have procured such carts from a third party, and we stand behind our claim that this equipment is seamless and provides the best way to deliver care to our patients. The carts carry an automated stethoscope and other equipment to aid the medical professionals. Czartoski also says the tech is not a replacement for in-person care, despite hospitals saving money. Still, he does not feel like it has had a negative impact on how patients experience health care. It only means they can save something that is in short stockpile around the globe these days: PPE (personal protective equipment).  “We were able to demonstrate, by using telehealth gadgets into these rooms, that we can reduce the need for personal protective equipment in half,” Czartoski said.

Disinfecting clinics and hospitals

Before the Covid-19 outbreak, there was a huge push to decrease the number of  infections that had been acquired in a hospital that kill at least tens of thousands of our people yearly.  Currently, many corporations around the globe, including Xenex Disinfection Services that is based in San Antonio, have innovated UV light disinfection systems that are pursuing a vital new role in maintaining public areas and healthcare facilities sanitized during the ongoing crisis.

“The thing with robotics, or with any gadgets, is to pick your battles.”

Xenex’s LightStrike Germicidal Robots, priced at roughly $125,000 each and lasting about half a decade, use high-powered barrage of UV light in a broad spectrum to destroy the DNA of microbes without affecting the nearby equipment and environment. An average room in a hospital will take about 10 minutes for a LightStrike to sanitize, according to the Xenex. Dr Mark Stibich, an epidemiologist and the co-founder of Xenex, testifies that  what studies before the ongoing pandemic show is that in the hospitals where LightStrike is being used, “we generally see a reduction rate that goes between 45 to 80 percent, and still getting better.” Since UV light can be harmful to humans, the janitorial staff will not be in the same room when the robot is in use, it also has an automatic shutdown sensor that will go off once it detects human movement.  Based on the current situation, more hospitals are turning to this robot to sanitize rooms before the janitorial crew enter to perform typical cleaning work including changing the sheets. The robot will once again disinfect the surfaces and the air of the room before they let a new patient use the room. The LightStrike lighting equipment is currently being used in more or less 500 healthcare facilities around the world, including but not limited to the Mayo Clinic, 70 Veterans Administration hospitals, and 10 Department of Defense hospitals. The company recently announced that the LightStrike was recently tested on live SARS-CoV-2 virus at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, as opposed to surrogate viruses that have been approved by the FDA for disinfection purposes. A company press release states that the robot was able to destroy the virus in two minutes.

Here are three stories about how robotics and other technology are helping in the fight against Covid-19

Most office buildings will be automated, enabling workers to go back to work more easily

Workers are set to start returning to the likes of the RBC Centre this September, and there’s a company called City Robotics that plans on sending in remote-controlled UV sterilizing robots to make the place a little more hospitable. City Robotics manage buildings in downtown Toronto, including the Bay Street Village collection, which encompasses ten buildings and the Richmond and Temperance buildings. The smaller establishments are 60,000 square feet, and the larger facilities range from 300,000 to 600,000 square feet.  They have put together a plan for each one of our buildings and shared it with tenants so their employees won’t be taken aback by the situation when they return to the office. There are now signs in common areas, separate entrances and exits, and signs that direct traffic inside the building and indicate the maximum number of people in the elevator— two or three people, depending on the size of the elevator. The changes they were able to implement right away were initial changes. They have also purchased UV technology for the handrails on escalators. It’s not visible, but it’s a UV light that continuously cleans the handrails by going under them. They have ordered a couple of remote-controlled UV sterilizing robots. They go around and disinfect unoccupied spaces and typically after hours. They have foggers that release a dry solution in a contained area to clean the air and eliminate airborne pathogens.  These are enhancements to the regular cleaning procedure. They hope these methods will make people feel more comfortable with the level of cleanliness in our offices. They’ve hired cleaners whose responsibility is to wipe down all high-touch-point areas every 15-20 minutes.

Robot Janitors could soon be in schools

MIT has developed a robot capable of disinfecting an entire 4,000-square foot warehouse in 30 minutes and could one day be used in schools and grocery stores. Using a type of UV-C light to kill viruses and other harmful microorganisms, the robot can disinfect huge areas very quickly with little assistance. The robot was designed by a collaboration that began in April between MIT University’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Janus Design, and Northeastern University. Ava Robotics and the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) have teamed up to combat the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The UVC light can be used to kill coronavirus in any locations it touches. Researchers believe this may be an effective tool to disinfect public stores and restaurants to limit the spread of the virus. UV-C lights emit a wavelength of ultraviolet light that can sterilize surfaces and liquids rapidly and cheaply. The UV-C attacks the DNA of microorganisms directly, disrupting it and killing the pathogen while leaving human cells unharmed. Because of this, UV-C is responsible for killing tough microorganisms that other methods may struggle to defeat, such as MRSA and airborne pathogens. Using UV-C, a light form of radiation, as an antibacterial treatment is becoming more popular, particularly in commercial markets. It could have an important role in fighting coronavirus in the future. The robot features a UV-C array that is built on top of a mobile robot that was completely autonomous and free from any human supervision built by Ava Robotics. The ROBOR OV mapped the given space and create waypoints, delivering set doses of UV at each checkpoint and successfully disinfecting the entire GBFB warehouse in 30 minutes. The ROBOR OV is designed to either aid or replaces chemical sterilization, which can be expensive and time-consuming. corona virus covid-19

The IMPACT Exhibition Centre in Bangkok utilizes UV disinfection robots to kill any organisms on surfaces.

Thailand’s IMPACT Exhibition Centre in Northern Bangkok has joined the list of venues that have turned to UV light disinfection robots to safeguard against virus and sanitize contaminated surfaces. IMPACT has two robots that clean the exhibition halls and common areas. Paul Kanjanapas, managing director at IMPACT Exhibition Management Co., Ltd, showed off the robots at the full reopening of IMPACT after the Thai authorities allowed Phase 4 of reopening for the MICE industry. Reopening the business comes with the requirement that safety and preventive measures still need to be followed strictly, including social distancing and customer density control. The venue has mobile robots that clean and sterilize the area using UV light. Kanjanapas said, “We are also using touchless elevator control panel or MagikTuch, another invention that is developed by NSTDA, to avoid cross-infection and thus reinforce safety measures.” Such innovations truly highlight why IMPACT is a company that focuses on safety and smartness. Muang Thong Thani has 140,000 sq ft of floor space and 5 large buildings.

What stage has robotics reached?

The new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has made it difficult to buy traditional surface disinfectants. It has stimulated the production of ultraviolet-disinfection robots. Robots seem like a good idea for hospitals because they can disinfect the room in one process and save time and money.  There is potential, but it needs to be evaluated. Robots could help, but they are not good enough yet. Hospital design adjustments are required in order to overcome the issue of shadowing and free the movement of robots. They might provide processes that are validated, reproducible, and documented. Developments and trials in hospitals are needed to overcome the current limitations and integrate this novel technology into hospitals of today and tomorrow. 

What is expected from robots, really?

Machines replacing people in the workplace has been a concern for as long as there have been factories, and discussion of this topic has increased with the rise of automation. Until now, there has been more hype about automation than information on how it affects employment and wages. The paper, “Robots and Jobs: Evidence from U.S. Labor Markets,” by MIT professor Daron Acemoglu and Boston University professor Pascual Restrepo, PhD ’16, finds that industrial robots do have a negative impact on workers. For every 1,000 workers in the U.S., wages will go down by 0.42%, and the employment-to-population ratio will go down by 0.2 percentage points if one more robot is added. This means about 400,000 jobs are lost so far.

What are the current trends in the use of robots to face covid-19?

A virus from the coronavirus family at the beginning of this year has caused many deaths and is causing the world economy to have big problems. This kind of situation always happens over and over again throughout history. Infected patients usually have flu symptoms, isolation, and full hygiene.  Man has learned how to manage epidemics, but deaths and negative effects continue to happen. What about technology? What is the impact of technological progress we have achieved? We wonder about the role of robotics in the fight against COVID. It presents the analysis of scientific articles, industrial initiatives, and project calls for applications from March to now. It highlights how much robotics was ready to face this situation, what is expected from robots, and what remains to do. The research groups offer support for therapies and prevention actions. We commented on the maturity of robotics in dealing with situations like COVID-19.