It’s during times like these that inspire innovation.


In that spirit, the “Fighting Germs” contest is here to not only reward that innovation ─ but also give to other charities for those attempting the same thing! It’s fun, it’s beneficial.


They say the best time to plant a tree is thirty years ago. The next best time is today.


(Image credit: Pixabay)


According to the Worldometer, there are 3,981,763 coronavirus cases around the globe, with 274,434 deaths, and 1,372, 687 recovered. It’s not the greatest of news, certainly so when new cases pop up daily, along with virus-related deaths that seem never-ending. While medical professionals are continuing to battle the disease on the front lines, large companies are joining the fight to help provide support for those professionals.


In this roundup, we will take a look at what some companies and academic institutions are doing, with some augmenting the work of medical professionals, while others are bridging the gap that otherwise might not have been filled.


1: Distilleries are Making Hand Sanitizer

(Image credit: Wikipedia)


According to an article from the New York Times, many distilleries are shifting part of their production lines to produce hand sanitizer, due in part to extraordinary demand and the closing of restaurants and bars. What’s more, many of these companies are giving it away for free, including Anheuser-Busch, who is partnering with the Red Cross to bring hand sanitizer to communities who need it the most. The company is renowned for shifting production over to water that’s distributed during emergencies and natural disasters.


It’s estimated that three-fourths of US distilleries are considering producing hand sanitizer, but many have expressed concern that the production of a product containing alcohol and distributing it to the public for free might be illegal. To help assuage those fears, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau have waived parts of federal law that would prohibit such action.


2: Microsoft’s AI Healthcare Bot is Screening for Coronavirus Infections

(Image credit: Microsoft)


Healthcare organizations in Europe, including Denmark’s Emergency Medical Services Copenhagen, are using Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot to help screen people for the coronavirus, freeing up doctors and nurses to care for critical patients. The Bot is powered by Azure, Microsoft’s AI platform, and handles incoming calls from people concerned they may have the virus or who have questions about the disease. The Bot runs a system checker to identify patients that have a high risk of having the virus using medical protocols that are based on questions doctors would use for screening. Azure AI allows users to take advantage of its natural language processing technology to design their own bots using custom parameters with assistance from Microsoft.


3: AMD’s Folding at Home Initiative

(Image credit: AMD)


AMD has partnered with the Folding at Home distributed computing project, which makes use of processing power garnered from volunteers’ personal computers. The combined processing power is used to simulate protein dynamics, including the process of protein folding and the movements of proteins implicated in a variety of diseases, in this case, COVID-19. AMD is looking for participants with AMD-powered systems to join in the effort and help combat the disease. Those interested need to make sure they are using the Radeon Software Adrenalin 2020 Edition 20.4.2 version or better before joining the project.


You can join the element14 community folding@home team after this link.


4: Social Media Deploy Algorithms to Stop the Spread of Conspiracy Theories

(Image credit: Wikipedia)


According to an article from the Associated Press, social media companies such as Facebook and Google (YouTube) have deployed algorithms, new rules, and warnings designed to take down coronavirus conspiracy theory posts that could cost lives. In Iran, more than 300 people have died, and over 1,000 people have become sickened by ingesting methanol after a rumor spread that it was a cure for the virus. People are also burning down 5G communication towers after a rumor spread that 5G signals cause the spread of the virus. Twitter is also cracking down on posts that promote said conspiracy theories, even those pushed by government officials with dubious claims of readily available cures and other misinformation.


5: ViewSonic offers Professional Development Team to Educators 

(Image credit: ViewSonic)


ViewSonic is providing educators one-on-one assistance from its Professional Development team for any learning initiatives they might have with remote/distance learning, curriculum, video creation, and conferencing. Because most schools will remain closed during the pandemic, teachers and educators will need to get up to speed on how to implement and use online learning resources, as sometimes there is a gap between the latest technologies and current learning materials.


General guidance being offered by ViewSonic includes adapting to the “new normal,” which is designed for teachers and students to get comfortable with learning at home. Class time Replication provides teachers on how to balance weekly assignments/projects with the same amount of time of a traditional class period. The last piece of guidance, Teach Outside the Box, promotes remote and distance learning, and how to integrate new ways of educating.


6: Instagram Founders Launch RT.Live Virus Tracker

(Image credit: RT.Live)


To keep accurate data on the coronavirus, the founders of Instagram have launched an online tracker, which provides continuous live updates using data from the COVID Tracking Project. The new platform grabs the latest updated data to determine how quickly the virus spreads in each US state. The site focuses on the virus’ Rt value, or reproduction number, to determine its spread, so a value of 1.0 or above indicates a fast spread, while a lower value shows the virus is slowing down.


7: MIT and Other Academic Institutions Launch PACT to Track/Trace COVID-19

(Image credit: PACT)


MIT and other academic institutions have launched an initiative to track and trace the coronavirus without invading the privacy of mobile phone users. Known as PACT (Private Automated Contact Tracing), relies on short-range Bluetooth signals from smartphones, and generates a random string of numbers (called chirps) that nearby phones can send and receive. When a person becomes infected, they can upload a list of chirps their phones have transmitted in the past 14 days to a database. Others can then scan that database to see if they picked up any of those specific chirps, and if there is a match, a notification system will inform them they may have been exposed to the virus. They also get information from public health officials on the next steps they can take.


8: CenturyLink Donates High-Speed Internet to Temp Hospitals

(Image credit: CenturyLink via LinkedIn)


CenturyLink is donating high-speed internet services to temporary hospitals that have been set up to handle the pandemic. As cases increase, local municipalities are converting unused space in various facilities into medical field hospitals, and just like any other medical institution, getting fast information can help doctors and nurses battle the virus. So far, CenturyLink has provided service to the US Naval vessel Mercy that’s sitting at the port of Los Angeles, the CenturyLink Events Center in Seattle, the Oregon State Fair and Exposition Center in Salem, Oregon, and eight quarantine stations in Seattle.


These are just a handful of examples that large companies and academic institutions are doing to help fight the pandemic. While some provide services and technology to those in need, others have donated millions of dollars to help with testing or much needed medical equipment, including The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Apple, and Amazon, among a host of others. It will be a while before we can see any semblance on how life used to be before the pandemic, but any effort to help us get there is a welcome endeavor.


Have a story tip? Message me at: cabe(at)element14(dot)com