NASSCOM teams up with IoT, AI startups to provide low-cost solutions to combat COVID-19
NASSCOM's Center of Excellence IoT and AI has focussed on a few startups to leverage their solutions and provide them with the resources
The coronavirus pandemic and the shortage of important tools to combat it like testing kits, PPE kits, ventilators among a score of others has led many incubators, accelerators to mentor startups to pivot so as to get opportunities that would help them and also the larger majority with home-made, low-cost solutions. NASSCOM's Center of Excellence IoT and AI has focussed on a few startups to leverage their solutions and provide them with the resources to scale in terms of access to manufacturing partners. It also wants to provide platform access from leading IT/ITES firms to be able to integrate the startups solution for a pan-India offering in the time of the virus crisis gripping the country.
"Considering the criticality of the situation, it was necessary to shortlist solutions that had a demonstrated experience of deploying these solutions and the design capability to manufacture at scale”, said Sanjeev Malhotra, CEO, NASSCOM, Center of Excellence IoT and AI.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted supply chain network and made it imperative to look for indigenous solutions. So NASSCOM’s Centre of Excellence IoT and AI decided to focus on shortage of ventilators, paucity of testing kits, difficulties in enforcing social distancing and sanitisation as well as absence of authentic information regarding the pandemic.
Given the sudden onslaught of the pandemic, Malhotra and his team went through hours of elaborate discussions with several solution providers. “The idea was to be able to have as thorough understanding as possible of their solutions and their efficacy in the COVID-19 scenario. After this exercise spanning over a couple of weeks, we were able to come up with the list of the companies that presented their solutions to the Empowered Committee,” he said.
NASSCOM is also working with some grants and funds to help provide capital to these solution providers.
Firstpost spoke with some of the start-ups to understand the solutions they were offering:
Tracking COVID-19 hotspots
Utkarsh Singh and Ayushi Mishra were in Punjab for an active project (drone mapping the road network of the state) when the State was structuring its initial response to the coronavirus crisis. During a casual conversation the client mentioned the dashboard made by Johns Hopkins University to track the global spread of the crisis.
Both--26 year-old Singh and 28 year-old Mishra are alumni of Johns Hopkins University where the former graduated in Computer Science, and Mishra is a biomedical engineer with an MS Engineering Management degree. The casual conversation soon turned to be the focus point for Singh and Mishra. “We embarked on this engagement with that brief and got a day to create a public facing dashboard for India and a district wise one for Punjab specifically. Over a course of time, the scope of work increased to include geofencing of quarantined patients, cluster analysis of the spread, location tracking with CDR (call records data), and predictive analysis for spatial spread based on these parameters,” said Singh.
Dashboards were always a part of our product, we adapted it to be helpful for the corona situation,” Mishra said, adding, “as we are dealing with highly sensitive data, the whole solution is built in-house in India.”
The solution is live in 5 states--Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, and Meghalaya. As of now, they are providing the service pro bono to all states if they have existing infrastructure in place. But Mishra and Singh said, “In certain cases, the engagement could turn commercial. However, it would only cover our costs,” they said.
The duo’s startup, DronaMaps was launched in October 2016. It is a platform to create large-scale 3D maps from imagery collected through drones. Their maps are used for Smart Village and Smart City applications for planning Sustainable development initiatives.
When Singh and Mishra started working with Punjab, the product and the company was bootstrapped, however, the startup has now have received some initial funding from ACT, LightSpeed, Matrix, Sequoia among others.
IoT-enabled hand hygiene
Startup MicroGO has come out with an IoT-enabled device for hand hygiene while saving water. It uses minimal resources and captures usage data. The startup has the capacity of producing 100 units a day, said Rachna Dave, the founder. This solution has already been installed at several airports operated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) including Chennai, Hyderabad, Calicut, Guwahati, Baroda, Pune and Kolkata, in addition to a host of enterprises and companies like the Taj Group, Tata Capital, BigBasket, Waycool and IRCTC.
Working as a scientist (Ph.D Microbiology) at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), the now 39 year-old Dave decided to quit her job eight years ago to launch a startup in Chennai in 2016 with a focus on saving essential resources, direct and indirect costs. Her startup MicroGo is a R&D based manufacturing company that focuses on problems around ‘safe and save’ in water, food and hygiene.
MicroGo has been working in the hygiene space for the past three years, especially hand hygiene. Dave reasoned that “it is the first line of defence in any industry or for an individual wellbeing. When COVID-19 situation started to develop, we were in the scale-up mode – thus, we could contribute at the right time,” she said.
The startup which is bootstrapped, has received angel investment, grants and revenues is proud to say it is ‘Made in India’. Multiple units of hand hygiene units have been installed at 100 locations in the past 45 days.
AI-enabled analysis of chest X-Rays
Headquartered in Mumbai, with US operations based in New York, Qure.ai taps deep learning technology to provide automated interpretation of radiology exams like X-rays, CTs and MRI. It was established in 2016 by Pooja Rao.
In 2016, Qure.ai had built and deployed a robust deep learning-based chest X-ray screening tool called qXR that classified chest X-rays as normal or abnormal and highlighted the abnormalities on the X-ray. Rao, Co-Founder, said, “When COVID-19 symptoms were being researched, we realized our solution could pinpoint these abnormalities. We trained our algorithm to go a step further to predict a COVID Risk score. The score shows the likelihood of the patient having Covid-19 from chest X-rays. As many nations are seeing a shortage of test kits, the score can prioritize those who need to be tested and those who need to be asked to self-isolate.”
The algorithms are equipped to run on cloud hardware, limiting the onsite hardware requirements to be as small as a $50 Raspberry Pi, and the cost of these scans are less than $1. The solution is vendor-agnostic and can be integrated with the medical center's existing machines, Rao said.
Qure.ai’s COVID triaging and progression monitoring software is already deployed in 40+ sites across 7 countries, Rao said.
Incubated by Fractal Analytics, the startup has received funding from Sequoia Capital and Mass Mutual Ventures in February 2020. Besides, it has also has received funding from India Health Fund.
AI-enabled thermal imaging camera
Staqu has developed an AI-enabled thermal imaging camera for screening body temperature and is used to generate e-pass for essential services and citizens in need.
Established in 2015 by four co-founders-- Atul Rai (MS in AI from University of Manchester), Anurag Saini, Chetan Rexwal-both B.Tech graduates from IP University), Pankaj Sharma (B Tech from Jamia Milia Islamia)
Staqu works in homeland security with JARVIS, one of its video analytics technology to automate security and safety monitoring. Post COVID -19, there was a huge use case for video analytics for automating the pre-screening of temperature, safety monitoring in terms of mask detection, mopping-cleaning detection, sneezing coughing detection, contact tracing etc. “We already were doing these in different form- for example mask detection is live with some of the security agencies i.e. if someone is wearing masks in highly sensitive areas, an alert goes to command centre but now the same mask detection technique is the new normal,” said Rai, CEO.
The video analytics technology is Live with customers both in private and public sector. All the technologies developed by Staqu are indigenous and has already received two patents for its products, Rai said.
Staqu raised seed round funding from Indian angel network in June 2016.
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