Drones spray disinfectant over large areas, robots distribute hand sanitizer, apps analyze coughs to see if they are “ dry ” or “ wet ”, and the AI techniques normally used to detecting tuberculosis are being refined to be able to detect the virus, are part of the contributions of Indian startups to the fight against contagion.
As the nation enters a 21-day lockout period, start-ups, far from letting their minds sink, seize the opportunity by building drones, chatbots, apps and robots to help healthcare professionals to fight on the front line of Covid-19.
General Aeronautics, an aerospace engineering startup based in Bengaluru, deployed its drones to spray disinfectant throughout the city. “We have sprayed disinfectant in overcrowded areas such as KR Market and Majestic and will continue to cover most areas of the city for the next 10 days,” said founder and CEO Abhishek Burman.
The disinfectant, a mixture of disinfectant and bleaching powder, is sprayed into areas where garbage has accumulated to prevent the spread of new infections.
In neighboring Tamil Nadu, Garuda Aerospace, a Chennai-based startup, is also helping civic bodies spray disinfectant using drones with the help of engineering students from the Agni College of Technology.
For those worried about the health of their loved ones in quarantine, the healthcare start-up Dozee distributes its heart rate and breathing monitor for free to those who are quarantined within the city limits of Bengaluru.
An original idea of IIT alumni Mudit Dandwate and Gaurav Parchani, Dozee is a portable device that provides continuous breathing data without the need for wires or technical expertise.
Attached to a thin sensor sheet that passes under the mattress, the device is held under the patient’s chest and, according to Dozee, provides 98% accurate data. “This will help ease the anxiety of loved ones, as they currently have limited means of knowing the health status of people quarantined at home,” said Dandwate, CEO.
Several start-ups are also working to reduce the burden on health workers. Asimov Robotics started by using its robots to distribute disinfectants and distribute masks to employees of various startups in Kochi, Kerala. He is now planning to deploy robots called Karmi-bots to help Covid-19 patients in isolation rooms by bringing them food.
Sophisticated medical equipment is being modified to meet current needs. For example, Sequoia-backed healthcare startup Qure.ai has modified the AI solutions it created earlier to help detect diseases like tuberculosis from X-rays.
“Previously, our solution could automatically generate interpretation reports from chest x-rays, detect tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and malignant tumors. Now it can also interpret an x-ray to detect indicative Covid-19 results and even quantify the proportion of lungs affected due to the lesions, “said Prashant Warier, CEO of Qure.
This can be used by healthcare professionals to screen patients for further testing and the readings could help reduce the burden on healthcare facilities.
The Mumbai-based start-up has also developed an application-based solution, qSCOUT, for healthcare providers to use for contact tracking and remote sorting of infected patients.
Right now, most people know that a dry cough is one of the symptoms. Health technology startup Mfine is developing an AI-based cough analysis feature that records the sound of a cough and predicts whether it is a dry or wet cough and also if the infection is in the upper or lower respiratory tract.
The idea is to increase the chances of detecting Covid-19 patients. “It is currently in the pilot phase and we are collecting more data to make it accurate. Once it is 95% accurate, we will deploy it to the market, ”said Prasad Kompalli, co-founder of the Bengaluru-based start-up.
Applications are also being deployed to track patients and disseminate reliable information about the virus. Eka Software in Bangalore announced the launch of a Covid-19 risk monitoring application that aims to help commodity companies assess and mitigate supply chain risks.
In the same vein, the healthcare company Portea has developed a chatbot called Cobot-19 which can spread information. It will collect data from reliable sources including the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Johns Hopkins University and share it with the general public.
The Kerala government, which has been at war since January when the first case was reported in the state, has teamed up with Qkopy, a startup, to launch a mobile application called GOK Direct. This application will distribute information on guidelines for travelers, quarantine protocol and health and safety advice.
“The advantage is that we can also send specific messages targeting only people in quarantine or who have tested positive,” said Rajiv Surendran, co-founder and COO of QKopy.
Similarly, Pixxon AI Solutions, based in Chennai, has tied up the state police to provide quarantine monitoring services. Those quarantined for Covid-19 will receive a police link to install on their cell phones. Once installed, the application will follow the patient and send his position to the command center every 15 minutes.