Kerala’s startups are using the valuable lessons learnt from the Nipah outbreak in 2018
Chemtech, healthtech and deeptech startups are working with the government in Kerala
Startups are intervening to solve the issues with one startup officially onboarded by the state government
Starting from China’s Wuhan region and spreading to every corner of the world, the novel coronavirus or Covid-19 has claimed the lives of over 8000 people around the world. Wuhan, which is one of the busiest cities in China, is said to have close trade relations with Kerala which was the first state in India to register a positive case of Covid-19.
While in Wuhan, over thousands died because of the coronavirus, Kerala is yet to suffer a single casualty because of this pandemic. Moreover, the first three cases registered in the state have already recovered well from Covid-19.
Kerala’s success in handling the situation better can be attributed to the state government’s preparedness and the startup ecosystem which claims to be ready even for more unfortunate times.
Speaking to Inc42, secretary of Kerala’s IT ministry M Sivasankar said that the 2018 Nipah virus or SARS CoV-2 outbreak helped the state to understand how technology solutions offered by startups can help in managing an outbreak of an unknown virus. “Similar to Nipah virus outbreak, we are keen to use startup created solutions for tackling coronavirus as well,” he added.
As of now, the Kerala government is only officially using the communication platform of QKopy. But Sivasankar said that the IT ministry has recommended Kerala’s health ministry to incorporate solutions offered by other startups to tackle the situation.
Social Distancing Through Robots
As coronavirus spreads through human contact, the risk of the spread of this deadly virus increases more at public spaces such as shopping malls, airports, and corporate buildings. To raises awareness at these places, Asimov Robotics has developed and deployed robots which talk to people and offer precautionary measures to visitors at the entrance of buildings. It’s also one way of enforcing social distancing in public places.
Asimov Robotics founder Jayakrishnan T told Inc42 that the company has deployed two robots at a business centre in Kochi. At the entrance of the facility, while one robot provides information related to coronavirus, the other one offers hand sanitiser to 600 employees of 40 companies.
“The purpose of these robots is to spread awareness about coronavirus and help people adopt healthy practices to keep themselves safe amid the outbreak. They seem to be attractive and provide information which can be trusted by people” Jayakrishnan added.
Besides this, Asimov is also looking to provide robots to hospitals and other medical facilities where suspected people have been put under quarantine. Jayakrishnan said that this will help the medical staff to prevent themselves from getting infected to coronavirus. Additionally, robots also have a digital screen which people can use to interact with family members in quarantine.
Asimov Robotics is prepared to take on any surge in the number of cases, having been in the field of robotics since 2012, according to Jayakrishnan. “So far, we have supplied over 250 robots to clients in the US, UK, and India. Also, we have the capacity to build robots in a short time which can be deployed in situations like these,” he added.
Curbing Panic Through QKopy
Using QKopy’s platform, the state government launched an app called GoK – Direct Kerala. The application, which can be downloaded from the Google Play Store, provides information and updates related to coronavirus to the users. Besides the mobile application, the platform also sends notifications on feature phones via SMS. This is quite helpful for users who still don’t use smartphones. The Kerala-based startup also provided similar services at the time of SARS CoV-2 or Nipah virus outbreak.
The app sends daily updates about the number of persons under surveillance, home isolation, number of suspect cases and more in English and Malayalam. Additionally, citizens are also informed about the number of samples sent for testing and the number of tests that are negative to curb panic of the pandemic. District-wise numbers based on these parameters are also available on the platform.
Besides citizens, the application is also used by government authorities as a reliable source of information regarding the coronavirus outbreak. Using these numbers, authorities can take precautionary measures in the areas which they are managing right now.
Monitoring Public Toilets
With the coronavirus outbreak, people are staying indoors to prevent themselves from getting infected. However, in some cases, citizens have no option but to step outside. Those out in the open are finding it difficult to use the services of hygienic public toilets. To address this problem, Kerala-based Humble Shit is developing a toilet monitoring system which measures the cleanliness of a toilet based on 24 parameters, according to the founder Samir Dayal Singh.
Singh explained that public toilets are a source of spread of most of the diseases. The platform collects data points such as the number of people who have used the washroom, total time spent by these people, the number of people inside the toilet, etc. These numbers help the toilet managing authorities to clean the toilets appropriately.
Disinfecting Faster And Smarter
Another unique innovative solution coming from Kerala is the use of water-based sanitizers by chemtech company Aqoza Technologies. Company’s managing director Razin Rahman told us that it launched this product in 2018 during Nipah. “During Nipah outbreak, there was a need of mass disinfectant which had the potential to sanitise airports,” he said.
The company provides disinfectant products to airlines, IT parks, commercial buildings. But instead of alcohol-based disinfectants, the company offers a hypochlorous acid-based solution. Aqoza claims that its product can disinfect most viruses including the novel coronavirus and Nipah virus.
Rahman said that as the product is water-based, it takes just 15 minutes to disinfect any area. It is worth noting that alcohol-based disinfectants take around four to five hours to do the same business. He also noted that alcohol-based disinfectant is toxic whereas water-based products are safe even for children.
According to him, this chemical when dissolved in water acts a more powerful sanitiser than alcohol-based ones. “Defence research and development organisation (DRDO) is also using this disinfectant for the Indian army to sanitise hospitals,” he added. Aqoza sells its product exclusively at airports in Chennai, Kochi, Trivandrapuran, and Calicut under the brand name Voyager. But with the current situation, the company has ramped up its operations and has secured additional licenses to ensure that its products are available locally and for industrial and hospital use.