Editor's Letter Insights

Tech Community Steps Up to Battle COVID-19

Written by Jeff Child

On behalf of the Circuit Cellar staff, we hope that you and your loved ones remain safe and healthy during this challenging time. Our team all work remotely and we’re committed to keep assembling the quality magazine you’ve come to expect each month. Hopefully we can keep inspiring you, provide some distraction and share some interesting project stories during this uncertain time.

 Shifting gears, I’ve been incredibly inspired by the roles the embedded community—from technology companies to individuals—have played as they’ve stepped up in their own unique ways to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. These roles include large, generous efforts in resources and equipment, but also intriguing cases where embedded technologies have been crucial in enabling solutions for dealing with COVID-19 at many levels.

 As I write this (in early April), Intel has just announced it’s pledging $50 million in a pandemic technology initiative to combat the coronavirus through accelerating access to technology at the point of patient care, speeding scientific research and ensuring access to online learning for students. Around $40 million will fund the Intel COVID-19 Response and Readiness and Online Learning initiative. Intel says that initiative will provide funding to accelerate customer and partner advances in diagnosis, treatment and vaccine development, leveraging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), high-performance computing and edge-to-cloud service delivery. Through the initiative, Intel will help healthcare and life sciences manufacturers increase the availability of technology and solutions used by hospitals to diagnose and treat COVID-19.

 You may have heard of Kinsa Health in the news recently. Kinsa makes smart thermometers that connect via Bluetooth to the Kinsa App. The app can not only keep a log of readings, but also provide users with a range of benefits including guidance on when to seek further medical advice, provide medication reminders and so on. For several years, anonymous data from the Kinsa App has enabled Kinsa Health to produce a temperature heat map of the US (that Kinsa calls its US Health Weather Map) that could be used to identify potential COVID-19 hotspots much more quickly and help government agencies and healthcare organizations in their on-going battle against the virus.

 Kinsa’s thermometers are based on Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52810 SoC. Because Kinsa’s smart devices are battery-powered, they require an ultra lowpower Bluetooth Low Energy solution, but one that also has enough on-board processing power and memory to essentially run the entire smart medical application from a single chip.

 The DIY community has also been engaging in ways to contribute their expertise to the COVID-19 battle. Embedded processor vendor Espressif Systems reports a story of an Indian engineer, Abhijit Mukherjee, that has come up with an Espressif ESP8266-based solution for safe measurements of body temperature during the COVID-19 crisis. Abhijit says he “felt the urge to do something which could help” during the current global pandemic. By posting his project on hackster.io, he also wants to invite suggestions from other makers on how to improve his solution.

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 Baffled by the lack of reasonably-priced contactless thermometers on the market, and prompted by the necessity to safely check from a distance the temperature of people he had to deal with in his personal and professional, daily life, Abhijit says he built a completely autonomous and contactless, IR temperature-measuring device which can be mounted anywhere—an office door, an apartment entrance, or the on front gate of an apartment block. Abhijit’s gadget can track people’s temperature and post the results to any cloud or incoming webhooks (a simple way to post messages from apps into the Slack messaging app).

 All of you please stay healthy and safe, but also as connected and engaged as you can.

PUBLISHED IN CIRCUIT CELLAR MAGAZINE• MAY 2020 #359- Get a PDF of the issue


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Jeff Child has more than 28 years of experience in the technology magazine business—including editing and writing technical content, and engaging in all aspects of magazine leadership and production. He joined the Circuit Cellar after serving as Editor-in-Chief of COTS Journal for over 10 years. Over his career Jeff held senior editorial positions at several of leading electronic engineering publications, including EE Times and Electronic Design and RTC Magazine. Before entering the world of technology journalism, Jeff worked as a design engineer in the data acquisition market.