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Role of Big Data in COVID-19 Aid – Since The Very Beginning

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19th May, 2020
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Role of Big Data in COVID-19 Aid – Since The Very Beginning

The rapid spread of COVID-19 has brought together doctors, researchers and data scientists to find a solution. Scientists are using sophisticated technologies such as big data analytics, machine learning, and natural language processing for tracking the virus and learning more about it.

As lots of patient data is being stored now, it is difficult to analyze each record and determine a solution to curb the virus. This is where big data comes in. Big data is becoming a powerful tool in analyzing these datasets and identifying patterns that can help in COVID-19 detection and recovery.

How is Big Data helping in the fight against COVID-19?

Detection 

The big data role in COVID-19 aid starts from the first step – detection. Toronto-based big data startup BluDot detected some unusual pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China in December 2019. They did it by using their big data algorithm that pulled data from a variety of sources. The algorithm analyzed data from health records, airline ticketing data, government notices, news reports and disease networks to predict the rise of an illness.

Analyzing the spread of COVID-19

Using airline ticketing data, BluDot was able to predict the spread of COVID-19 from Wuhan to other Asian cities. Apart from this, mobile phone data is also used for tracking where the virus might spread. Location statistics are also useful.

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For example, big data tools can analyze disease data and information about senior citizens, who are at risk of contracting coronavirus. The algorithms and tools can track these people down to the postcode level, keeping in mind factors such as obesity or diabetes. These analysis reports will suggest healthcare centers and hospitals where additional medical facilities such as beds will be required.

Data scientists are working on mobile applications that will be used for contact tracing. By utilizing the location data on their smartphones, people can be alerted if they have been exposed to the virus. A team at Southern Illinois University (SIU) has developed a data visualization tool that uses GPS data to alert users about locations of COVID-19 cases.

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Virus tracking dashboards

Big data role in COVID-19 aid is becoming more evident as organizations such as WHO, CDC and Microsoft are creating dashboards based on it. These dashboards pull data from different countries and show confirmed cases, deaths and locations. The dashboards can be used to prepare datasets for big data models. The models can predict possible hotspots and warn the healthcare authorities beforehand.

Another crucial big data process used against COVID-19 is outbreak analytics. This deals with the collection and analysis of outbreak response data. Data including deaths, confirmed cases, tracing people contacted by infected patients, population densities, and much more are used to develop data models for the disease. These models can predict peak infection rates and their impact.

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Handling risks

Big data can play an important role in analyzing screening data of patients and connecting it with unnamed health issues of hospitalized patients. The results of this analysis will help in determining the key risk factors. So, as more and more data is fed into big data programs and tools, the accuracy of risk predictions will increase.

Google’s DeepMind artificial intelligence system uses big data to understand the virus by analyzing its characteristics. This will help doctors to develop drugs and treatment plans.

Big data role in COVID-19 aid – Securing our future

After this global pandemic is resolved, big data can help the governments to prevent and battle against future outbreaks. The data from this outbreak can be used to test scenarios and analyze their outcomes to make vital decisions in the future.

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Conclusion

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In the upcoming years, big data will play an important role in analyzing global data about detected viruses, disease modeling, tracking human activity and visualization of this data. As more and more data pile up into huge datasets, data scientists will have a better shot at preventing such outbreaks. Read more to learn how data science helps us to prevent future pandemics.

If you are interested to know more about Big Data, check out our Advanced Certificate Programme in Big Data from IIIT Bangalore.

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Rohit Sharma

Blog Author
Rohit Sharma is the Program Director for the UpGrad-IIIT Bangalore, PG Diploma Data Analytics Program.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1How has technology helped to accumulate COVID-19 data?

Data analytics has increased the space to accommodate changes. Today, there are different ways to track outbreaks and diseases, which helps to save more lives. The use of Artificial Intelligence is mainly used for detecting COVID-19 symptoms in people. Using computerised tomography, it has become easy to analyse the COVID-19 signs with the results generated. AI is very advanced and creates unstructured data to predict the new cases in a certain area depending on the population. COVID-19 has been and will stay around for quite some time. This clearly means that effective solutions need to be put in place to speed up the ways to stop the virus from spreading aggressively. The rise in Blockchain technology has introduced us to epidemic management. Blockchain creates “ledgers” that are effective in evaluating disease outbreaks. Ledgers update themselves by working in a loop and are completely secure.

2How has contact tracing been implemented?

Many countries have introduced contact tracing by using various tools. Security footage, GPS, and bank card records are directly extracted from smartphones that share real-time data about people’s timelines. In countries like South Korea and China, text messages are automatically triggered, informing them about new COVID-19 confirmed cases. Moreover, the text alerts also notify people to report to testing centres if they have been close to the victims. Thus, contact tracing has massively helped South Korea gain control over the rising cases and currently has the lowest per-capita mortality rate worldwide. Singapore has launched an application that uses short-distance Bluetooth signals to detect people in close proximity. The app records all these details for 21 days to detect COVID-19 symptoms.

3What is the impact of COVID-19 on jobs?

COVID-19 has introduced us to the biggest crisis. In addition to poverty, it will also elongate the chances of inequalities. Moreover, it is also going to impose an unprecedented challenge in food system, public health, and the economy. The disruption caused by the pandemic has turned the dynamics of the world’s economy completely. The impact of COVID-19 is bound to stay in the future. Before it becomes a social crisis, countries must put their best foot forward to eradicate the crisis.

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