That “We never step into the same river twice” has never been more profoundly relevant than in our times as the chain of events continue to accelerate at the backdrop of the COVID19. Several months into a pandemic that has claimed around half a million of lives so far and damaged economies around the world, one thing remains clear is that despite disparate and coordinated efforts by scientists to untangle the mystery of the virus we really still don’t have a unified and agreeable theory about the exact mechanism by which the virus contaminates others. In most parts of the world lockdowns are already easing and people are preparing to return to a new version of work and social life, as governments and organizations are confronted with two rather conflicting choices of equally detrimental consequences of either reopening the economy vs. continuing the lockdown, or to simply let more people get sick vs. letting them get poor.
Why Face Masks and Social Distancing Combined Matter!
So, what do we know so far! According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, the novel coronavirus is primarily spread by droplets from an infected person who is coughing, sneezing or even talking within a few feet away, making face masks and social distancing to be the most obvious and powerful deterrent to the virus. In a recent study published in the Lancet, an absolute infection risk of 12.8% was found to shrink to 2.6% with at least 1 meter of physical distance, and maintaining physical distance of 2 meters appears to be more effective. Also, mask wearing was associated with a large reduction in absolute risk from 17.4% with no face masks to 3.1% when wearing masks. Also, to illustrate the joint and cumulative effect of social distancing and face masks, a group of researchers developed a computer simulation model that demonstrate how changes in safety measures in their communities, including wearing face covering and social distancing, can change the course of this pandemic. The simulation shows the effect on a hypothetical group of 100 infected people out of a group of 1,000 where 80% of people wear masks and practice social distancing, on slowing the infection rate to almost zero within 60 days.
COVIXas A Platform & As an Index
Motivated by these findings, Cognitro a Dubai-based AI (Artificial Intelligence) firm that specializes in video analytics created COVIX, an integrated platform that monitor and track adherence to safety measures by recognizing people who are and aren’t wearing masks and practicing social distancing within a public scene captured by streaming video images and using deep learning analysis. Covix currently operate on fixed surveillance cameras installed in malls and Cinemas but are also currently being deployed on Boston Dynamics Spot robot which can roam parks and open-door areas and provide audio alerts and announcements. The platform is also powered by NVIDIA technology which also allows for on-the-camera recognition.
But Covix is also an index, a numeric representation of safety or compliance represented by a weighted-average composite metric, called COVIX index. The index is normalized by the total number of people in the scene and can be monitored in both real-time or using previously stored video data. An operational dashboard captures instantaneous fluctuation in the COVIX metric over time as people with various degrees of compliance appear and disappear. To analyze and understand key insights on sources of non-compliance, peak violation time, as well as physical bottle necks impeding compliance, an executive BI (Business Intelligence) dashboard was built to allow for deeper investigations and discovery of critical processes needed to achieve greater compliance in practical ways.
COVIX around the World
A global compliance index, or World Covix Index, is currently feeding from designated public surveillance cameras in streets, malls and parks in several parts of the most visited countries in the world including New York, London, Dublin and Rome. To do this, a cloud-hosted version of COVIX is running 24/7 capturing and analyzing the general public behavior and updating the COVIX index on daily basis for those cities (http://covix.ai/world-index/). The data indicates severely low compliance in the European cities of London, Dublin and Rome with an average score of 12 on a 0:100 scale. However, New York scored slightly better with a COVIX index of 30. Those figures can by no means be considered accurate but provide a broader picture on compliance to safety measure among world communities.
For the global fight against COVID19 to be effective, there needs to be concerted efforts between technology leaders, research institutions as well as health and government organizations. For instance, using Covix index data, investigators can examine possible correlation between compliance/safety measures and the rate of infection. As a platform, Covix is poised to help airports, malls and in-door public facilities reduce the spread of the COVID19 especially in light of any clear established relation, and bringing in the Covix index parameters would help countries and officials create a risk-adjusted approach to the establishment of the new norms with minimal inconvenience to the public. Covix undoubtedly demonstrates that both sophisticated AI and practicing common-sense social distancing and wearing masks in public together may be the only way to contain the devastation of this virus and ensure that our economy is restored, and that each one may not be sufficient but combined they are necessary.