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How the Coronavirus is Inspiring Innovation

The novel coronavirus isn’t just impacting world health. It’s impacting global sales,[1] global travel,[2] and the global economy in general.[3]It’s even given way to an unfortunate “infodemic” of fake news that even the World Health Organization is attempting to dispatch with due haste.[4] But there is a silver lining. With necessity as the eternal mother of invention, the coronavirus has become a veritable muse for innovation, with a number of biotech companies racing the clock to pinpoint treatments and vaccines,[5] and reduce diagnostic turnaround time,[6] leveraging AI (artificial intelligence), advanced data analytics, and other relatively cutting edge technologies.[7]

But it appears the most frequently searched question about coronavirus doesn’t relate to how (how it’s diagnosed, how it is treated, how it runs its course). Rather, the question on everyone’s mind appears to be where -- as in where is the disease right now (dovetailing with one of 2019’s most-searched questions, “Where is Hurricane Dorian, right now?[8]). As one might expect, this question has sparked its own flurry of innovators seeking to come up with the ultimate “coronavirus disease tracker.” Not surprisingly, the results have been prolific, but today, we’d like to shout out to these three entries into disease-tracker innovation race:

Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Global Cases tracker

On January 22, 2020, the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering launched what is likely the most highly respected and highly-referenced coronavirus disease tracker thus far. Tracking the spread of the illness in real-time, the tracker lives; here, with data visualizations available for download. The Johns Hopkins tracker draws from a panoply of trustworthy sources, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China (NHC), linking to a downloadable Google Sheet containing information for cities and nations throughout the world, including the United States. As of the time of writing of this Exela Blog post, the tracker has reported more than 75,750 infections and 2,130 deaths as attributable to the coronavirus, although an information session held this week at Johns Hopkins University suggested the infection rate may be higher because the rate reflects only those who have sought medical attention, and not everyone who gets sick will see a healthcare provider. Accordingly, the fatality rate is likely lower than the 2% indicated by the tracker.

Hashlog by Acoer

Blockchain-enabled applications developer Acoer has created a coronavirus disease tracker called HashLog, which pulls data from the CDC and WHO and then leverages real-time distributed-ledger technology[9] (which is what Blockchain uses) to understand the spread of the virus and its trends over time. Despite being less well-known than Johns Hopkins’ tracker, HashLog has drawn interest from public health officials at federal and state levels in the United States, in part because its dashboard is unique and easy for the user to digest, which is something of which we understand the importance here at Exela. For example, an intuitive dashboard distinguishes the fulfillment solution, we developed for Exela Smart Office, as a tool for tracking shipments, receivables, and other delivery logistics.

“Track Corona Live” by four students from the University of Virginia

“Four high school friends from Virginia are pooling their talents to inform the world about the new corona virus – helping people to track its spread and to learn how they can protect themselves,” Virginia’s Public Radio recently reported.[10] The students report that due to the above-referenced infodemic , their biggest challenge has been getting the correct, most up-to-date data. Thus far, they have managed to leverage data from the CDC, WHO, the National Institutes of Health NIH and a website used by Chinese healthcare professionals to create an online dashboard where visitors can track the disease in near real time. But their plans extend beyond tracking the coronavirus. “Right now we’re actually working on building out a machine learning model that bases off of past virus data – like SARS, MERS as well as past,” in the hopes of predicting the spread of future epidemics.

Ultimately, while we are deeply concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, we’re also excited by the innovation it is inspiring. At Exela, we believe that public health and technology go hand-in-hand. Read about all that technology can do to heal healthcare’s inefficiencies in our most recent edition of PluggedIN, Exela’s quarterly thought-leadership news magazine.