What is a pandemic?

By definition, a pandemic is an infectious disease that has spread across a large region, i.e. on multiple continents or worldwide, affecting a substantial number of people. The most fatal pandemic in history was the Black Death i.e. the Plague (or Bubonic plague) which took the life of an estimated 75-100 million people in the 14th century. The most recent one before the covid-19 outbreak was in 1918 i.e. influenza pandemic (or the Spanish flue) which is caused by H1N1 influenza A virus. This pandemic claimed the life of up to 75million worldwide with 500million confirmed cases. The fortunate thing is, the two pandemics are being contained, but the bad news is, they are here to stay, and every now and then, you would hear them being detected, but then… contained.

As for the pandemic we are experiencing now, it was not until the end of 2019 that the world was suddenly made aware of a deadly virus, which originated from Wuhan, China caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Declared as pandemic on 11th March 2020,  to date, there are 26,481,441 (4th September 2020) confirmed cases worldwide with 873,411 (4th September 2020) deaths, which infected 215 (4th September 2020) countries.. and what makes it worse is that, the numbers are still increasing!  In Malaysia alone there are 9,374 (4th September 2020) of total infections with 128 (4th September 2020) deaths, to-date. Yes, the virus is still spreading, and our country has made everything they can to keep us safe.

With all these occurring around the world, and Malaysia in particular, CAIRO, which is claimed as the pioneer in Artificial Intelligent and robotics, cannot just be a bystander and watch. Something needs to be done to aid in combatting this virus, and fast! Hence, the production of this article!

The first highlighted project is the development of MCK19. Who would think Makcik Kiah, who was first highlighted by our beloved Prime Minister, besides selling goreng pisang and taking care of her family, can contribute so much to the pandemic! Developed by CAIRO’s own entrepreneur, Associate Professor Dr. Yeong Che Fai and his team, MCK19 or ‘Makcik Kiah’ robot, the first hospital robot for delivering food and medications was created to curb the spread of the virus among our front liners when dealing with covid-19 patients (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Mak cik Kiah (MCK19)

The work was recognised by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) as a significant collaboration between Kementerian Perdagangan Antarabangsa dan Industri (MITI), Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia (KKM), Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MTDC), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz UKM (HCTM) and DF Automation & Robotics Sdn Bhd (DF) which was covered on an article here.

Involvement of CAIRO in this difficult time does not stop there. Utilizing the facilities and research team in Actuator and Automation Lab (A2Lab) in UTM, three projects were initiated by CAIRO director, Associate Professor Ir. Ts. Dr. ‘Athif bin Mohd Faudzi. Yes, several of these projects were highlighted in our first article on Dr ‘Athif, but is highlighted more here.

Firstly on transport ventilators, a collaboration with Medivest Sdn Bhd, an integrated facilities management company providing non-clinical hospital support services, has designed a new prototype of ventilator device, medical ventilator apparatus (Figure 2). Thus, signifying Dr Athif’s active role, hence CAIRO in combating the current pandemic through AI and robotics innovation. The prototype of the ventilator device, will be served as a backup measure in the ongoing fight against the covid-19 pandemic.

Figure 2 Prototype of ventilator device – presenting to MOHE

Secondly, with collaboration with UTM Centre for Community and Industry Network CCIN, as well as several UTM researchers, a face shield project followed by face mask strap project, are developed using 3D printers. The face shield and mask strap projects were commercialized by UTM Innovation & Commercialisation Centre (ICC), and are distributed to our front liners with the help of UTM (then) beloved Vice Chancellor, Prof. Datuk Ir. Dr. Wahid Bin Omar (Figure 3).

Figure 3 Mask Strap for front liners

The third project is a portable ultraviolet disinfection robot or LuminUV which utilizes UVC 254nm system to eliminate bacteria and germs (Figure 4).

Figure 4 Ultraviolet Disinfection Robot

The device was tested on e-coli and discovered to be capable in eliminating bacteria, effective within five minutes of one metre radius. This work was successfully conducted with the initial support from COVID-19 special grant granted by Office of Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation, UTM. To ensure the success of the project, various UTM organizations were also involved, which include Frontier Materials Research Alliance, Faculty of Engineering, and Faculty of Science. As a cherry on top, on the early phase prototype development, the project has attracted a collaboration with CAIRO’s industrial partner, UMW Innovation Centre as well as Zuggaar and Pepperl + Fuchs, a leading global developer manufacture of electronic sensors and components. Currently, the product is being tested, and imminent deployment in Hospital Sultanah Aminah (HSA), Johor is being actively discussed. In parallel to that, the commercialization of the product is vigorously discussed with UMW Sdn Bhd.

So watch this space!

Other contribution towards combatting this deadly pandemic from CAIRO comes from our own Dr Mohd Ibrahim Shapiai, which is currently the head of department in Malaysia-Japan International Institute of Technology (MJIIT) in UTM KL. Responding to the statement from our respectful Health director-general, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on social distancing measures and the no-touching policies that have been practiced on preventing the spread, Dr Ibrahim has come up with his own temperature system using AI. The temperature scanning system can detect temperatures of moving targets by utilizing the AI technology. Dr Ibrahim was invited to the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM) IKIMfm on 1st of June 2020, live to elaborate more on this technology (Figure 5). Dr Ibrahim did a great job on emphasizing CAIRO’s commitment on curbing this deadly virus!

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Figure 5 Dr Mohd Ibrahim Shapiai on IKIMfm

To wrap things up, CAIRO, as a team has organized series of online talks on facebook and youtube on matters related to covid-19. The talk is an eye opener to the public on the extend of the pandemic and what CAIRO is doing in assisting the government. A forum series on “Technologies to Fight COVID-19 from CAIRO UTM” on facebook as well as a series of technical workshop CAIRO was also organized online, discussing similar matters. Truth be told, the CAIRO members have always been committed in everything that they do, and seeing that Malaysia requires assistance in combatting covid-19, the least that the centre can contribute is through the expert areas CAIRO is involved in, which are Artificial Intelligence as well as Robotics.

Thank you!

More about CAIRO UTM:

CAIRO UTM (Centre for Artificial Intelligence & Robotics) is one of the leading Centres of Excellence in Malaysia focusing on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Control and Automation. Established in 1997, CAIRO UTM has produced numerous talents and significant research outcomes on AI & Robotics. In 2018, CAIRO UTM was awarded as one of the Competence Centre by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry MITI. UTM has strong linkages and networking with academic institutions, government sectors and industrial sectors, on national and international level.

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