AI as a tool to reduce the spread of infection
Influencing behaviours with technology
Governments’ tools in the fight against the coronavirus only extend to a certain point. Then we rely on each other’s free will and behaviours. But after seven months of restrictions and lock-downs, the World Health Organization now warns that less people are able to maintain the strength to follow the general advices and restrictions. "Artificial Intelligence can be a tool," writes Fredrik Hofflander, Head of Future Technologies at AFRY.
In a recently published op-ed in the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter, four behavioural researchers list suggestions on how to influence human behaviours to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Stickers and information signs are not enough - they must be completed with other tools. Among other things, the researchers highlighted the need for technology and the social norms that have a strong impact.
“A tool in the fight against the coronavirus can be Artificial Intelligence, a technology that could facilitate certain behaviours. Many smart solutions are already available; for example, we have integrated AI into small sensors that can be placed anywhere - in a store, over traffic flows or in means of transportation such as buses or trains. Fully GDPR-secured, they can then collect data and present it to the user”, says Fredrik Hofflander, Head of Future Technologies at AFRY.
The sensors are designed so that no video or images can be extracted from them even though they contain an image sensor. Instead, the device uses neural networks to detect regions of interest in the image and then discard the image, protecting privacy and making it fully GDPR compliant.
From the beginning, the solution was developed to read traffic flows and contribute to smarter traffic planning. Or, by detecting objects, it ensures that workers on a construction site wear safety equipment. But it can of course be applied to many other problems.
Today, it could help owners of shops and shopping malls to both measure the number of people on the premises and measure that there is enough distance between individuals. A screen can then inform visitors in real time how many people are already in the store, and they can then make decisions accordingly.
“The solution is already in use by the real estate company Vasakronan in Gothenburg. The sensors measure the flow of people in shopping malls such as Kompassen and Arkaden, as well as counting the total number of visitors. As part of the fight against the coronavirus, we could use this to measure distances between people basically anywhere - in restaurants, cafes or gyms”, says Fredrik Hofflander.