How to get supplies and field responders to the right place at the right time is a resource optimization problem. One company is using IoT, machine learning, and smart city technology to solve it.
There’s more to COVID-19 support than knowing how many people are sick; you need to get them to hospitals. Those hospitals need ventilators, protective equipment, and tests to show up in time. That means they need to be ordered in advance based on prediction.
This sounds like a job for data visualization and smart city tech.
Smart city technology
While the Internet of Things (IoT) was teaching your thermostat and doorbell to be smarter, an entirely different side of the family was teaching the cities to become more self-aware. The simplest example of the smart city is the humble waste disposal team. That is, the people who pick up your garbage every week. Internet-enabled trash cans, combined with stop lights and trucks, can optimize travel routes. This lowers traffic congestion, reduces emissions and hourly employee costs. Residents see lower trash (or tax) bills. Everyone wins. The same sort of technology can time those stop lights, direct the fire department and police, plan parking spots or optimize water use. That is, the tools provide insight into how resources are used to deploy scarce resources more efficiently.
It turns out the same technology that can make a city smart can be used to respond to the novel coronavirus. One company that specializes in that area, Quantela, is stepping up to do just that. I talked to the CEO, Amr Salem, from Dubai, on his sixth week of lockdown from the virus himself.
After 20 years at Cisco, where he managed its IoT and smart cities business unit (and later the public sector business), Salem joined Quantela. He explained the company has 95 live deployments, including installations in Albuquerque, NM, Erie, PA, and Las Vegas, NV. Certainly, Las Vegas has plenty of need to optimize light, electrical, and water use—at least until recently.
Salem’s team noticed that the problems that smart city software solves, of scarce resources, also apply to COVID-19. “We found a lot of authorities are looking at data that comes from hospitals,” he said. “They want to know how many hospital beds are available, how many nurses, how many ventilators, the personal protective equipment (PPE), testing equipment. They need to know how many ICU beds, and how many cases reported in the area around the hospital. In this case, you have two different needs, the infection rate and also the critical assets.”
Salem said the leaders want “to make sure the critical assets are available where and when they have the most patients, but also to make sure the patient is sent to the hospital that has the assets they need.”