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Engineering creative solutions amid a pandemic

Watch what an inspired engineering community did when they got an opportunity to look for relevant solutions to tackle the pandemic in an ideathon to Fight Covid-19

Highlights

  • “I know there is a patient. I know I am a doctor. But we are not able to interact with each other because there is no protective barrier between us.”
  • “We could come up with an idea which could be a path breaker, or which would help the government in managing this better.”
  • “Why should all the patients go to hospitals and get the treatment? Let's have a connection between the doctors and the patients from their home itself.”

“I know there is a patient. I know I am a doctor. But we are not able to interact with each other because there is no protective barrier between us.”

This was the key takeaway for Ajit Manjappa, when he was looking for solutions that could help the ecosystem at a time when people across the world are figuring out ways to treat and connect with patients across the world.

For Manjappa, and his colleague, who are both mechanical engineers, this was the moment when they could both put their years of training, and good intentions to use. Using the available 3D printer, the team created Face shields for doctors, and started supplying them with the product. “We wanted to do something in that perspective of helping somebody in need, and especially when they're not getting what they wanted,” he says.

Like Manjappa, there were numerous creative engineers at Infosys who believed that they needed to help find solutions to tackle the multitude of situations created by the pandemic.

Following the Government of India’s initiative, Fight Covid-19 Innovation Challenge, to encourage solutions to tackle Covid-19, and for Infosys, this was a perfect fit. As an organization that takes pride in encouraging and harnessing this talent for solving problems, Fight Covid-19 ideathon was the logical next step.

“(It was important that) we bring together the power of larger (Infosys ecosystem) that we have for this large social good,” says Viral Thakkar.

Viral Thakkar, AVP - Senior Principal Technology Architect at Infosys, says it was imperative that Infosys be able to contribute to innovate at scale.

“(It was important that) we bring together the power of larger (Infosys ecosystem) that we have for this large social good,” he says.

Senior Technical Architect, Asha Anthony, agrees, and says that technology can help find a solution.

“We could come up with an idea which could be a path breaker, or which would help the government in managing this better,” she says.

The participants were busy putting this thought into action with the ideathon. Much like Manjappa, for Kiran Kumar Vemparala, who is a senior consultant at Infosys, the problem lie in the lack of adequate connection between patients and treatment.

“Why should all the patients go to hospitals and get the treatment? Let's have a connection between the doctors and the patients from their home itself,” says Vemparala.

Vemparla was looking to create an application that would help build this connection. There was, however, a slight hitch in the process. Having a background in CIS, Vemparla did not know much about mobile Android development.

“We could come up with an idea which could be a path breaker, or which would help the government in managing this better,” Asha Anthony.

He found a solution in an internal program run within Infosys – the Infosys Accelerator Program – through which, he was able to connect with the wide network within the organization and seek the very skills he needed for the project.

And he was right. It was through this program that he connected with his team and started working on a solution – Corona Taxi.

“If the situation is very critical, they should have a mechanism to reach the patients immediately,” he says, adding that this application would aid patients who find themselves in a critical condition can reach out to healthcare service providers.

“The doctor can then book the Corona Taxi from the mobile app, and they can rush to the patient's home, and can treat the patients at their home,” he says.

While treatment is essential, there were solutions that revolved around possible methods of detection of Covid-19.

Senior Technology Architect, Amit Kumar, who specializes in Artificial Intelligence (AI) researched to find cough patterns as an important factor for detection. According to him, so far, thermal scanners are being widely used to detect primary symptoms of coronavirus, and the need was to figure out other clinical symptoms of coronavirus.

Kumar had read papers that indicated how AI models could use cough sounds could help predict diseases such as Pneumonia.

“Why can't we use the sound patterns and apply some deep learning techniques to learn from these patterns, and why can't we create a neural network around it and we can train that neural network on different types of sound patterns?” he says.

Much like how Manjappa used 3D printing to solve the availability of face shields, they also wanted to understand how operation of lifts could be made contactless. Not wanting to reinvent the wheel Manjappa researched for solution.

“We searched over the internet if there is any solution. Surprisingly, there aren't any. So, we went ahead, designed quickly to make our contactless operation, we prototype it using a 3D printer,” he says.

“If you have an idea, there is nothing stopping at this state to bring out into product... Now ideas can be directly translated to products,” Ajit Manjappa

With the range of ideas that came through with the ideathon, there were a few essential elements that the jury members were looking for.

“Desirability, feasibility, and viability,” says Thakkar, adding that it is important to match the characteristics of a problem, with individual desire, as is the understand the practicality of the solution.

Engineering needs a high degree of creativity, and opportunities such as the Fight Covid-19 Ideathon encourage participants to explore the creative universe, while solving a problem.

Manjappa believes that a few years back ideas used to remain on the screen, or possibly into projects. But, that’s not the case today.

“If you have an idea, there is nothing stopping at this state to bring out into product... Now ideas can be directly translated to products,” he says.

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