How IoT Sensors Can Help Detect and Control Contagious Diseases

By Ricky Philip

In the healthcare field, Internet of Things solutions have been making life easier for medical professionals and enhancing patient care.

The ongoing transmission of severe contagious diseases, such as COVID-19, and the delay in the identification of emerging threats, has led to significant human and economic consequences for millions of people all around the globe. Hence, the early detection of such highly contagious diseases plays a crucial role in all treatment and prevention strategies.

In the case of the coronavirus, an infected person may be asymptomatic and unaware of his or her infection. Following the onset of symptoms, diverse health conditions and health encounters may occur, depending on the severity of the symptoms. Therefore, early detection is the first and most crucial action taken in infectious disease control.

The Role of the IoT in Early Detection
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global health emergency due to the rise in the number of people infected by the coronavirus. As of May 21, 2020, there have been nearly five million confirmed cases worldwide, which inarguably has the potential to spread intensely if not detected at an early stage. Therefore, the question remains: how can modern technology aid in curbing the spread of highly contagious diseases?

With coronavirus fatalities spreading around the globe and increasing in number, one can argue that the world is more collectively focused on healthcare solutions in the form of modern technology or traditional methods. Internet of Things (IoT)-embedded technologies, such as interconnected IoT systems, and progress in big-data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and ubiquitous connectivity on a global scale, have created an early-warning system to curb the spread of contagious diseases.

Analytics via data streams from IoT-enabled devices and sensors has become a primary source of valuable data for healthcare providers to discover information, predict early detection and make quick decisions about this critical situation. A global network of IoT sensors contributes toward both short- and long-term benefits in healthcare. The healthcare sector and governments will be able to monitor individuals as they move through airports or shopping malls, or even walk across the street. This will facilitate targeted quarantine and thus allow immediate treatment, thereby mitigating the spread of COVID-19 or any other communicable diseases.

Remote Temperature Monitoring
Remote body temperature monitoring using IoT-enabled scanners is an effective and efficient way to continuously monitor COVID-19-infected individuals. Thermal scanners help to identify heat signals and provide real-time temperature readings in the targeted area, displaying relevant data.

The video component uses AI algorithms to identify human features, even those obscured by masks or headwear. IoT-implemented thermal scanners can help in classifying people with higher-than-normal body temperatures and transfer that data or send alerts to specified recipients. IoT-enabled healthcare devices also aim to monitor quarantined patients with suspected coronavirus and detect signs of progression, as well as glean information on how the virus affects the body.

Rapid Medical Data Collection and Transferring
The data collected from wearable sensors or IoT devices, scanning for heat signals or other health-related abnormalities, gives patients rapid access to their own vital signs. Healthcare consultants can use this IoT-based monitoring to ensure that medication is being taken in the way that it was prescribed. For global pandemics such as COVID-19, IoT-enabled devices can collect data from remote locations and transfer it into the global health conformity. This analysis can recommend preventive measures using data from the IoT network to determine whether the controlling measures advised are being performed accurately.

IoT-Enabled HVAC Technology
Off-the-shelf and comparatively inexpensive IoT sensors that can monitor and report on air quality are evenly deployed throughout buildings and office spaces. Such heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in buildings operate at maximum efficiency to detect prominent air-quality contaminants and check whether the environment is healthy and comfortable.

According to an article published at LabManager.com, researchers are now studying a biosensor typically intended for controlling air pollution, to determine whether it could also detect the COVID-19 virus in the air. Researchers from Empa, ETH Zurich and Zurich University Hospital had been working to create technology for monitoring viruses and bacteria before the pandemic, but since the outbreak began, the research team has been focused on how to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the respiratory illness.

Recent studies have shown that 60 percent of organizations in the healthcare sector have already implemented IoT devices at their facilities, and that number is expected to climb dramatically during the coming years. IoT solutions in healthcare have been making life easier for medical professionals, and are enhancing treatments and care for patients, hence improving the quality of life.

Ricky Philip is an industry expert and a professional writer with a focus on understanding the implications of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, big data, SDN/NFV, cloud analytics and the Internet of Things. He is also a contributor to several prominent online publishing platforms, such as Medium.com and HubSpot.