As the deadly coronavirus that causes the illness Covid-19 continues to sweep across China, claiming almost 1,400 lives and sickening almost 64,000 in the country as of Friday morning, the country's tech companies are introducing even more new features and platforms to provide accurate information to users and help in outbreak containment efforts.
Here is a round-up of some of the latest apps and online services introduced in response to the epidemic:
1. Apps to check if you've come into close contact with infected people
Chinese authorities co-launched a platform called the "close contact detector" this week. The platform can detect if someone has had close contact with a person confirmed or suspected to have been infected in the recent past. It uses big data on the movement of people and records from public authorities to see if they have within the last two weeks worked, lived, or travelled with a person confirmed or suspected to have the virus.
Qihoo 360 and NoSugar Tech also introduced a similar AI-based platform that lets users check if they have recently travelled with someone who contracted the new coronavirus.
2. Weeding out counterfeit masks and profiteering online merchants
Chinese electronic retailer and e-commerce giant Suning.com launched a new program on its shopping app last week that enables users to access information about facial mask manufacturers before they make purchases online to avoid counterfeit masks and profiteering merchants.
Pinduoduo also rolled out a new social feature, Circle of Trust, that helps users share information and recommendations about the products they have bought or plan to buy, such as surgical masks. Users can comment on their friends' feeds, ask questions about the products, and invite recommendations by putting out appeals to their social circles, according to a Pinduoduo press release.
3. Online learning for students stuck at home
Schools in China are embracing online learning as academic semesters are postponed due to the outbreak, forcing students to stay at home. Tech giants Alibaba (the parent company of the South China Morning Post ), Tencent and Huawei are all offering free online classes for students of different levels during this period.
The free online learning services include Alibaba's DingTalk homeschool programme, Tencent Classroom and Huawei Cloud Classroom.
4. Fever detection systems
National AI champions Megvii and Baidu have introduced remote fever detection systems that can measure a moving person's temperature in a crowd.
Megvii's remote fever detection system can measure a person's temperature in a crowd at a distance of up to five metres. The system was designed to work through masks and hats worn by people, with a margin of error within 0.3 degrees Celsius, according to the company. Baidu's screening system, meanwhile, can detect the temperature of masked people on the move, with a margin of error within 0.05 degrees Celsius.
5. Tracking virus cases in real-time
Chinese search giant Baidu released an epidemic map on the Baidu Map app that shows the location of confirmed and suspected cases of the deadly infection in real-time, making it easier for people to avoid areas where the new coronavirus has spread.
Other companies including Tencent have launched similar platforms for locating confirmed coronavirus cases.
6. Free online doctor consultations
Baidu has launched a free online doctor consultation platform to the public to handle pneumonia-related questions. By encouraging people with minor illnesses to consult doctors online, this platform aims to ease panic among people and save hospitals from overcrowded situations.
Ping An Healthcare and Technology, also known as Ping An Good Doctor, is also providing free online and telephone consultations to people concerned about catching the deadly virus.
7. AI chatbots to conduct surveys, provide information
AISpeech announced that its AI chatbots, which can make automated calls to people and record their responses, would be free of charge for governments, medical institutions and charities to use for outbreak control efforts. The robot calling system enables organisations to reach out to a large number of people to survey their recent travel history and record their responses, and give recommendations for quarantine or information about the new coronavirus situation based on their responses.
Alibaba's research institute Damo Academy also developed an AI-powered public health service tool to provide information related to the virus. The system can provide answers to various questions using information released by authorities, such as the location of nearby hospitals or how to choose a medically-approved face mask.
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