Lankan innovation blossoms against COVID19 | Daily News


Lankan innovation blossoms against COVID19

The country’s scientists and technical experts are proving their mettle in both the public and private sector in innovating a range of tools and technology to counter the COVID19 pandemic. The creativity in the range of over a dozen new gadgets designed and produced by both public sector and private sector design teams has been the use of locally procured materials, multi-mode capacities tailored for our epidemic conditions and, immediate availability.    

The Medical Research Institute (MRI) was the first in the field at the very outbreak of the epidemic in January by quickly producing a small test kit to detect the disease. Since the pandemic took a firm hold in this country in March, with scientists and senior specialists in the universities, the defence forces and the corporate sector all pitching in, there has been a blossoming of Sri Lankan innovation to meet urgent and immediate technical needs in this epic health war. 

The quick results of these various efforts prove that old adage ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’.   

Atlas Axilia, long known as the Atlas stationary producer and now a subsidiary of the Hemas healthcare group, has designed and is supplying a homegrown Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) robot to the Health Ministry. Atlas’ AGVs, the first robots to be introduced in the fight against COVID-19 in Sri Lanka, are already in operation at the Base Hospital Homagama and the new treatment facility at Iranawila. 

Atlas’ latest upgraded AGV robot will be deployment at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, Colombo, and the Colombo South Teaching Hospital, Kalubowila.

The AGV robots can measure temperature through a thermal sensor and digitally store records. They also carry food and medicine to patients, minimising direct contact between other hospital staff and patients.    

The bulk of the innovation, however, is by the tech wizards of the Defence Forces, including the Kotelawela Defence University. The Navy has also designed and is providing to Health agencies a remote-controlled smart appliance called ‘Medi Mate’ in a bid to treat and test COVID-19 patients, allowing healthcare workers to remain at a safe distance from the highly infectious virus.  

These remote service smart gadgets are deployed at the Dr. Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital and, Kalubowila (Colombo South) Teaching Hospital. The Navy’s Directorate of Naval Electrical & Electronic Engineering was the innovator. It will help healthcare workers diagnose ailments, communicate with patients and dispense medicine and meals to them, without getting closer to the infected people.   

Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry’s Center for Research and Development (CRD) last week showcased several locally designed and produced types of anti-virus equipment. They included an interactive remotely operated robotic platform (Dr. Robot) to assess patient status, a disinfection corridor and, two mobile disinfection platforms.

The engineering and medical faculty teams of the Kotelawela Defence University have designed a range of five different types of equipment including mobile phone software for quick disease symptom assessments. These innovations were also showcased recently by the University.

There was a multi-mode ventilator, a more simple ventilator, a multi-function medical assistance robot, an air purifier and, computer applications to identify COVID19 symptoms, guide infected patients and track positive cases.  

The KDU multi-mode ventilator can fulfill a variety of functions tailored to meet various specific patient needs. The user is facilitated with the touch-sensitive screen to input required and appropriate parameters within each mode of operation. A simpler general use ventilator is also being produced.

The KDU Medicare Robot-2020/Version 1.0 is a remotely operated ‘medical assistant robot’ to care for COVID19 patients, to feed them, provide medicine and enable remote patient-doctor communications. The robot can undertake all these functions servicing 8 patients in a single cycle.

The KDU’s Curec is a ‘doctor-patient communication platform’, a sophisticated data processing and patient interactive digital application. The application is used as the digital patient identity with continuous symptom monitoring, recording and sharing with health monitors for patient guidance. Developed by KDU’s Faculty of Computing, Curec stands for ‘Cure and Recover’.

Given the long term life cycle of this global pandemic, Curec is the likely pioneer in a whole new genre of rapid response digital tools for epidemic mapping and management as well as individual patient treatment.

Readers will surely be impressed by this string of innovation projects that indicate flowering of Sri Lanka ingenuity in the face of an epochal challenge faced by entire humanity in all parts of the Earth. This technological creativity is manifested not just in the precise tailoring of functions and modes for local needs, but also in the affordable production and availability of materials.

It is to be hoped that these pioneering technological projects will be precursors to further innovation to empower Sri Lankan society in surviving and controlling the disease in the long term. Such innovation is needed for solutions in the post-COVID19 world not only at the medical level but also for the long term social and economic recovery.

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