I don’t think anybody has ever been more grateful to the healthcare industry, than they are right now.
Every day the emergency services risk their lives for us, whether that is by heading to the scene of a major incident or working on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic.
As technology continues to advance, there are more and more opportunities and use cases showing how we can better support these teams in their vital work.
Robots are one such example, and they are already proving their worth.
Better patient care
Acting as medical assistants, robots can monitor patient vitals and alert nurses when needed, allowing nurses to monitor several patients at once. Similarly, they can be used on the wards to clean down surfaces ready for the next patient, or even support rehabilitation programmes.
In a surgery setting, they are allowing doctors to operate through smaller incisions. In the future, my colleagues in Italy have shown that the surgeon need not be in the same room as the patient. Thanks to the low latency and reliability of 5G, a surgeon will be able to operate remotely, in real-time, from the other side of the world, via robotic hands.
This will open up access to medical and surgical expertise on a greater scale, eliminating current geographical barriers.
In Spain, we’re also exploring how 5G can transform healthcare and have two pilot schemes in progress. One that is supporting search and rescue operations and one that will help in the fight against COVID-19.
Robots in the pandemic
Working with partners such as Intel, Fivecomm, Altran and the Polytechnic University of Valencia, we have been able to create an intelligent autonomous robot that can help in the fight against coronavirus.
Using managed autonomous car techniques, the “Sentinel Robot” can identify if people are following the safety guidelines or not, such as are they wearing a face covering or is their temperature abnormally high?
This data is sent over the 5G network and processed by a remote command centre. An operator can then manage the alarms and take the appropriate action in real-time, like interacting with the individual using the robot’s tablet and speakers.
Daniel Jiménez Muñoz tells us more:
Are robots the new emergency services?
Transforming rescue operations
It’s not just in the hospitals or on the streets that robots can support these hard-working teams. They’re able to improve safety in the field too.
Teaming up with different emergency teams, we took part in a drill organised by Malaga University to show how 5G technology can improve communications in rescue or disaster situations.
Using several autonomous, remote-controlled robots to perform mapping, recognition and location tasks, as well as human emergency teams and a rescue dog, this super-fast and reliable network controlled the robotic systems in this difficult and unfamiliar environment.
It also coordinated the teams so that everyone involved was kept connected and received the same real-time information via a live streamed, high definition video.
This pilot is a real breakthrough for these kinds of scenarios, proving that robots and drones are highly effective in search and rescue operations. In part, it is about speed. Every minute can count in these situations. However, it is also driving greater safety for the emergency service teams themselves.
This is in common with the use of robots in other sectors. More and more in recent years, robots are being used in dangerous working environments such as the logistics and manufacturing industries. Protecting workers from repetitive and hazardous tasks, they are also creating a need for more specialised roles including management, engineering and programming.
And super-fast networks like 5G are making it possible.