Facial Recognition, Thermal Scanners, and AI: Technology Development Board Approves Projects to Fight COVID-19

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The Technology Development Board (TDB) of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has approved six healthcare-focussed tech projects for commercialisation in an effort to combat the coronavirus outbreak in India. The government body has approved a project to detect and track multiple people using facial recognition even if they’re wearing masks, apart from projects that use thermal scanners, and new masks and diagnostic kits.

Various enterprises in the country are developing solutions to scan body temperature of individuals to detect COVID-19. TDB has chosen Bengaluru-based Cocoslabs Innovative Solutions and Advance Mechanical Services as the two providers for thermal scanners, as announced.

Cocoslabs Innovative Solutions has built a device that can read the body temperature of individuals with or without masks and provide real-time prediction of their age, gender, and race. The device uses an artificial intelligence (AI) software along with a low-cost thermal camera and GPU servers to offer detection and tracking in crowded public places.

Although the pricing of the device hasn’t yet been revealed, it is touted to be a “low-cost solution” to identify people with abnormal body temperature in a crowd and alert the authorities about them through their phones and laptops.

It’s not clear how this will be deployed, who will use this information, what the purpose limitation and scope of the data gathered will be, or whether it will be applied to anything beyond COVID-19 tracking.

In addition to Cocoslabs Innovative Solutions, the TDB has picked Advance Mechanical Services that has designed an infrared-based temperature scanner for rapid measurement. The scanner works with an uncooled microbolometer and video analytics platform to deliver real-time alerts and analytics using AI and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The company also has a server technology that can work alongside its IIoT device.

The TDB has also chosen Pune-based Thincr Technologies that has developed face masks with a 3D printed coating of antiviral agent Sodium Olefin Sulfonate. The soap forming agent is claimed to disrupt the outer membrane of viruses. It is also said to be compatible with room temperature.

Additionally, the board has picked Medzome Life Sciences is aiming to build rapid diagnostic kits for COVID-19. The Delhi-based company, which already manufactures rapid diagnostic kits for Malaria, Dengue, and Typhoid, has plans to produce fluorescence-based Rapid COVID-19 Detection Kit that is targeted to be available commercially in the next two to three months.

The TDB earlier approved funding of Pune-based Mylab Discovery Solutions that brought a real-time PCR based molecular diagnostic kit for screening and detecting samples of people who display flu-like symptoms.

“The time of COVID-19 has shown us many paths to commercialisation of indigenous technologies and products by seamlessly connecting the push of knowledge from academia and research labs to the pull of market with a clear purpose, relevance, need, ease of support, transparency, dedication, cooperation, and accountability,” said Professor Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST, in the statement.

Details about the funding amount given to the companies aren’t revealed. However, since the projects are currently at their early stage, they’re likely to take some time to go on sale publicly.


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