AI, robotics start-ups leverage tools to combat Covid-19

Annapurani V Chennai | Updated on April 16, 2020 Published on April 16, 2020

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As India battles to contain the spread of coronavirus, artificial intelligence and technology start-ups in the country are leveraging their tools and solutions to help those in the frontline combat the crisis.

Invento Robotics, a Bengaluru-based start-up, has been re-purposing its robots — to screening and diagnostics robots — to help doctors and healthcare workers from getting exposed to infected patients.

The screening robot helps with data collection (name of the patient, symptoms exhibited) and validation (temperature checks) in a contactless manner. Those having a high body temperature, or exhibiting symptoms of the virus, or those whose family members have tested positive will be directed towards the diagnostics robot, which enables a video conversation with a doctor sitting in a remote location, and procures a prescription thereafter, for the patient.

“We started the pilot with two robots this week in two hospitals and we have about 10 hospitals that are waiting for the robots,” said CEO Balaji Viswanathan.

He added that the company intends to start shipping the next batch of robots to various cities across the country by the end of April. The start-up is also looking at fitting tools such as pulse oximeters and digital stethoscopes in the robots that will aid in examining patients in quarantine and isolation wards.


Saumitra Singh, Chief Product Officer and co-founder of TagBox Solutions, a supply chain monitoring company, said his firm has started retraining its existing artificial intelligence models to monitor the location and temperatures of people and products. The start-up’s hardware, Tag360, which can be used as a wearable, will contain various sensors for temperature, shock, light, etc, that generate alerts (for instance, when a person’s body temperature increases, and gives a predictive warning that he/she needs to be monitored closely). It is also being programmed to monitor the handling of diagnostic test kits, and generate an alert if unauthorised opening, physical mishandling or temperature risk is detected.

Singh said that delivery companies engaged in last-mile delivery assignments, diagnostic firms and e-commerce companies are among those that have expressed interest in the tool. “I think we should be having deployments from around mid-May to end-May.” .

With the restrictions on commute and increasing spread of infections, asymptomatic and otherwise, start-ups are also looking at robots to enable basic operations at hospitals such as carrying food and medicines. Addverb Technologies, a robotics start-up, in fact, placed a robot that is programmed to do exactly that in a government quarantine centre in Sector 39, Noida, last month.

The company is also working on UV robots to help disinfect hospital rooms, schools, malls or any controlled places, without letting humans be exposed to harmful chemicals.

“The prototype should be ready within a week after the lockdown,” said co-founder Amit Kumar. The start-up is looking at building about 60 robots in the next three months.

Supply chain issues

One common hiccup that these start-ups are facing is getting the supply chain sorted to source the components they need to build these products.

“Our robots have about 180 pieces and these come from dozens of different suppliers. Getting all these things sorted during the lockdown is our biggest challenge,” said Invento Robotics’ Viswanathan.

Published on April 16, 2020

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