“History itself shows that crises or extreme conditions can be useful for directing individuals, a country, and even the world to a solution.”
A very famous speech by John F. Kennedy in 1959, defined the crisis in an altogether different perspective. He pointed that if “crisis” is depicted in Chinese characters 危机 (wēi jī), it translates to danger (wēi) opportunity (jī). Even though it is not an exact translation, his thought-provoking words have deep connection even in the present world crisis.
During World War II nuclear energy in the form of destructive bombs caused catastrophic damage to the humankind. However, we have also witnessed its tremendous benefits in various sectors and transforming industrial development. This race of crisis and human evolution is a continuous process. History itself shows that crises or extreme conditions can be useful for directing individuals, a country, and even the world to a solution. Ironically, evolution on earth is also a result of disasters. The cold war between two major world powers led to the invention of “internet” and converged the world into a global village. This connectivity across global villages with enhanced ‘Air Travel’ in the last six decades showed exponential potential of epidemics converting into global pandemics. Thus, it’s cyclic and progressive i.e. emergencies put human life at risk, technological innovations provide solutions yet in longer term become causative factors for another emergency. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), first identified in December 2019, became a global health threat by March 2020. The pandemic, together with the extensive lockdown measures introduced by most countries in response, resulted in an unprecedented global socio-economic crisis. As countries grapple with the serious impacts to public health systems and socio-economic development caused by the COVID-19, innovation and emerging technologies have come to the rescue on both fronts – providing solutions to health challenges as well as enabling people to adapt during lockdowns and activity restrictions.
“The cold war between two major world powers led to the invention of “internet” and converged the world into a global village.”
On March 24, 2020 India also decided for lockdown measures. The challenges were no different from other countries but population density and unequal distribution of resources among different states triggered a quest to resolve multiple issues. The lack of decision support system is one of the first challenges to ensure optimal usage of resources and workforce. In such scenarios, predictive dynamics such as the Susceptible Exposed Infectious Recovered (SEIR) model developed by DRDO, INMAS can be very useful. Shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and testing facilities was another hurdle. Multi-use PPEs can provide tremendous support in such situations. “Protection” and “India 365” Masks developed by DRDO in compliance with NFPA 1999:2018 global standards are example Multi-use PPEs which can be washed and used again. This innovation can reduce PPE waste by 30-50 times in higher risk zones (isolated wards) and up to 100 times in moderate risk zone operations (disinfection drives). Snood mask with anti-viral coating by Virustatic Shield and Indigenous N95 masks by various industries, also introduced during 2020. Indian industries in these sectors started evolving for bulk manufacturing and some even started exporting to other countries, which never happened earlier.
“Another revolutionary development was digital transformation of contact tracing methods globally. Aarogya Setu (India), Samparc (DRDO, India), ArriveCan (Canada), all are examples of country specific apps for contact tracing.”
Another revolutionary development was digital transformation of contact tracing methods globally. Aarogya Setu (India), Samparc (DRDO, India), ArriveCan (Canada), all are examples of country specific apps for contact tracing. “Spot Robot” by Boston Dynamics introduced in Singapore to maintain social distancing at streets. “Colivery platform” in Germany provided the most efficient route for delivering essential goods. AI supported video conferencing “Krisp” removes all background noise during online meetings. “Cabana mobile” hotel services allow travel along with isolation within the USA. “Thermal Rebellion” helps in screening temperature while passing through gates and its holographic scanning view of air with pollens and multiple particles and helps in detecting safe environments. UV-C, once used as primary sterilient into HVAC systems gained popularity in neutralizing microbial load. Ventilator(s) by DEBEL Bangalore; ATMAN (AI based system for identifying patients by using X-ray inputs) by CAIR are also examples of novel R&D achievements. Diagnostic capacities increased rapidly across countries during the first six months of the pandemic, based on the application of a technique called reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (or RT-PCR). Rapid Antigen based testing kits, Paper based kits for indication of infection and RT-PCR based diagnostic kits added new dimensions to plethora of innovations. “Cowin application” for vaccination program is a new introduction for reducing wastage and targeting maximum population coverage in India.
“India, as a country has potential to become a major supplier for such products.”
Sanitization practices became the new norm in 2020. From work places to household premises sanitization/ sterilization of surfaces at multiple times using alcohol based solutions, raised another issue of multiple exposure induced toxicity and potential fire hazard. A self-sustainable, cost effective sanitation mechanism for household supplies including fruits and vegetables, vehicles, shoes became a new necessity of COVID times. Some of the technologies launched by DRDO target these requirements. Ozonated Radical Confined Space Sanitization (ORCS) Unit “Poorn Swachh” sanitizes both commercial/ domestic spaces and vehicles. It utilizes 33% of global acceptable limits of ozone (0.01 ppm X 8h) i.e. 0.03 ppm and in combination with Triyogani (fumigant) neutralizes microbial load even in hidden spaces. Ultra-swachh and Ati-swachh are innovative and cost effective cold sterilization technologies for PPEs, heat sensitive healthcare equipment and biomedical waste.
Tech-savvy hospitals in the metros not only have sophisticated medical devices, MRI machines but also fully interactive websites and online platforms. Technology and digitizations have enabled error-free online appointments, consulting, video consulting and conferences, and telemedicine. Apart from these the highly sophisticated medical devices that modern hospitals across the country use for detection and curing mean that hospitals have up-skilled themselves via integration of medical knowledge with Al-enabled medical devices and electronic health records. In a nutshell, this summarises the whole doctor-patient relationship and communication that has culminated a huge transformation via timely decision making in regards to planning treatments schedules, operation theatres for optimal use, data sharing and outcomes to bring in the “patient is the king” mindset.
Thus data integration is being actively used in extending medical services and for the increase in data aggregation that can assist in the activity of preventive care, proper staff allocation and monitoring the reduction of medical errors to provide a high level of care. Of course, the medical expenses have also increased with inflation. Today the focus of hospital management is to build loyal patients. Nowadays, hospitals are using technology to conclude the patients’ predictive analytics via medical records data, family history, health insurance cover via cashless treatments.
When applying predictive analytics to the data generated by each patient and combining this data with those points collected from medical health records, healthcare providers will be able to build loyalty with their patients, manage their health intelligently and provide them with the seamless healthcare experience as per their expectations. Some digital enablers also could be rapidly expanded, scaled up, or deployed to support the effort. For example, strengthening and expanding the coverage of foundational ID systems, working with governments and private sector service providers as well as expanding access to the internet with a provision of mobile devices for program delivery, or rapidly expanding capabilities of existing information systems through private, secure cloud-based service providers. The current scenario is addressing challenges and rectification via the use of technology.
“Even after a product qualifies for “export quality” it fails the cost challenges from bulk manufacturing countries like China, Bangladesh etc.”
Some of these novel technologies are not only important for managing pandemic within India but also have export potential to provide economic boost for the country. There is huge demand for such innovative products all over the world. India, as a country has potential to become a major supplier for such products. However, these products need to qualify stringent standard systems to gain access in the International market. National Registry of Goods and Standardized Quality Parameters both for indigenous and imported goods require databases/ innovative digitized solutions. The framework for stringent quality testing functional in developed nations is still evolving in our country. The disparity in framework results in cascading challenges for Indian manufacturers in the domestic market, thus limits domestic production. This raises production cost for Indian manufacturers. Even after a product qualifies for “export quality” it fails the cost challenges from bulk manufacturing countries like China, Bangladesh etc. Support from the policy framework of Govt of India can provide required solutions, which will benefit not only India but also whole world as evident in case of Vaccine production and supply management.
“Composed by: Dr. Sarita Jaiswal is an experienced plant biochemist working at the University of Saskatchewan and Ex Chief Scientific Officer Carpere, Canada. Her area of specialization is carbohydrate structural chemistry, metabolism and nutrition. She has sixty research publications inclusive of R&D articles, books, manuals/ modules, and book chapters. She has worked in many academic and industrial research projects. She also has keen interest in cosmetic formulation development and working on her own brand development.”