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  • The new coronavirus (COVID-19), declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), has changed the way people live. This affects key sectors of the global economy and industry, and the governance and structure of the Internet of Things (IoT) are no exception in this regard.

    Meanwhile, our habitat is increasingly being recorded by various sensors of everyday objects. Internet of Things (IoT) technology integrates seamlessly into online networks, working automatically without manual intervention.

    The Internet of Things (IoT) is known as a network of sensors that collect data locally and remotely and is useful in the area of e-health management. It combines body area networks (BANs) with on-site monitoring devices to collect critical patient information and provide essential tracking and tracking services for epidemiological management. Your local e-health system may collect health information such as blood pressure, temperature and heart rate. This information may be stored locally and accessible by healthcare professionals. In the case of COVID-19, the data can be used to initiate a diagnosis of the infection as well as to track the direction of its spread in the community. The basic data required includes body temperature, location and travel history. These parameters can alert officials whether there is a need for further research and testing or not.

    In times of a global pandemic such as the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19), adherence to social distancing guidelines is crucial, and patients are successfully tracked and followed. These two aspects help greatly in controlling the spread of the virus around the world. The ability of IoT services to provide remote data collection and monitoring of quarantined patients has made it a key aspect in fighting the spread of the virus pandemic.

    The network of heterogeneous sensors existing in the form of wearables, mobile phones, cameras and drones was rapidly integrated into communities. Low power consumption communication protocols (LPWAN) enable data collection and monitoring over very large areas. IoT devices such as mobile phones and drones are collecting data, modifying the IoT governance platform to meet policy requirements, and leveraging research innovations to apply IoT technology to effectively manage virus outbreaks.

    IoT platform for Covid-19

    The Figure below shows the hierarchical computing architecture, which involves four layers including perception layer, network layer, fog layer, and cloud layer.

    IoT platform for Covid-19
    Figure: IoT platform for Covid-19
    Perception Layer

    The perceptual layer consists of various devices that capture the environment and people. At this level, data is received just like a regular IoT sensor. These IoT sensors have been extensively tested in non-clinical diagnostics of human health and activity. Sensors include inertial sensors (accelerometers and gyroscopes), magnetometers, microphones, millimeter wave radar, radio frequency identification (RFID), andcameras.

    Network Layer

    The network layer is responsible for transmitting information data or instructions in the perception layer to the entire IoT platform. Information transmission is based on a public or private network with wireless or wired communication mode, which includes 4G / 5G basement networks, WiFi networks and satellite networks.

    Fog Layer

    Fog computing introduced by cisco has lower latency compared to cloud computing as it is closer to the physical IoT sensors. A fog node can be devices capable of processing, storage, and network connectivity, such as embedded routers or servers. Fog node is not a powerful server, but is a collection of decentralized and low end systems. Due to low latency fog computing can be used in time and location sensitive application for contact tracing, COVID-19 Symptom Diagnosis, social distancing and Quarantine monitoring.

    Cloud Layer

    At the cloud level, there is a centralized server or data center with powerful storage and processing power. The cloud layer is responsible for tasks that it cannot handle, such as predicting complex events. Due to its powerful processing power, advanced algorithms such as big data analysis algorithms and deep learning algorithms can be used to improve system performance. SARS-CoV-2 Mutation Tracking and COVID-19 Outbreak Forecasting are implemented in this layer.

    IoT Solutions in pandemic situations

    IoT technologies make it possible to diagnose symptoms in a non-clinical setting and share data with doctors, enabling remote healthcare. Here are some of the real-world IoT scenarios that have proven to be helpful in pandemic situations:

    Breathing Monitoring

    The frequency and patterns of breathing may reflect a person’s physical condition, and abnormal breathing patterns may indicate more serious conditions in COVID-19 patients. Respiratory monitoring is therefore very important in clinical applications. Traditional breath measurement requires hospital visits and professional medical devices attached to the human body, which is inconvenient for those in need. As IoT technology advances, breathing monitoring becomes pervasive and ubiquitous. Many studies use various IoT sensors, such as an inertial sensor, camera, microphone, mmWave radar and WiFi, to continuously monitor respiratory activity both indoors and outdoors.

    Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitoring

    Blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) is a measure of the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen. A healthy person has SpO2 greater than 95%. In patients with COVID-19, hypoglycemic SpO2 is a warning sign of the disease. In clinical practice, a non-invasive device, a pulse oximeter, is used on a person's finger to continuously measure SpO2 in the blood. However, this pulse oximeter is not suitable for everyday use. Other studies measure SpO2 in blood using wrist oximeters or wrist Photoplethysmography(PPG) sensors by analyzing differences in absorption of light reflected from wrist blood. By integrating these wrist sensors into your smartwatch or Fitbit, you can continuously monitor the relative changes in blood SpO2.

    Body Temperature Monitoring

    Fever is a common symptom of COVID-19, and clinical data show that more than 80% of COVID-19 patients have a fever. During the COVID-19 outbreak, many hospitals have installed infrared temperature sensors at the entrance to detect enthusiastic patients and isolate them from other patients for further evaluation. Therefore, it is important to monitor changes in body temperature in order to detect and prevent COVID-19. Infrared temperature sensors are often used to measure body temperature without contact during continuous and long-term monitoring to prevent fever in high-risk areas such as hospitals, schools and airports. Researchers have proposed using infrared thermal imaging from drones to identify people infected with COVID-19 at outdoor environment.

    Quarantine Monitoring

    Quarantine is used to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by isolating people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who are infected with the coronavirus. Some studies use IoT technology to monitor COVID-19 quarantine. The wearable belt tied to the body that monitors and sends the real-time data to COVID-19 quarantine center. Similarly, IoT frameworks are used to track and identify COVID-19-related issues during quarantine. In particular, various biosensors are used to detect symptoms of COVID-19 in humans and send this data to quarantine for further evaluation.

    Contact Tracing & Social Distancing

    Social distancing means maintaining a safe distance (2 meters or more) between people to prevent the formation of droplets when an infectious disease such as coronavirus or influenza virus causes the person to cough or when they speak.. IoT devices equipped with various sensors such as GPS, microphones, and magnetometers are widely used for proximity sensing that can be used for social distancing and contact tracing.

    There are many challenges associated with implementing IoT healthcare in an outbreak such as COVID-19. This section provides an overview of some of these challenges.

    Challenges Associated With IoT Data Collection

    Proper monitoring and control of COVID-19 requires multiple sensor nodes to interpret and generate useful information to collect data in various formats for advanced applications. One of the challenges, especially in these scenarios, is the heterogeneous combination of data gathering devices that feed the same IoT network. The heterogeneity and specificity of the supplier in the sensor devices leads to a rigid network management system. This becomes a problem when deploying new network policies or deploying the application to an existing platform.

    Lack of Fundamental Smart City Technology

    Integrating IoT technology into the global infrastructure for smart cities continues to be crucial in the fight against COVID-19. Today, most IoT deployments to tackle COVID-19 focus on IoT as part of a machine-to-machine (M2M) structure, rather than IoT as part of a global infrastructure. According to the 5G plan, IoT as a global infrastructure is essential for the effective development of smart cities. Moreover, the 5G infrastructure to support the global IoT framework is still in its infancy in most countries. The increased population was cited as one of the challenges of implementing a universal IoT infrastructure for smart cities. Other challenges hampering the development of smart cities include heterogeneity, operating costs, information security, system failures and sustainability.

    There is a need for more research into the development of automated and rapid virus pandemic alert systems, with advances expected in COVID-19 research and smart applications. We see an increase in the development of IoT-based hardware for thermal sensors and related virus detection tools, with the pursuit of efficiency and cost reduction. Smartphones are expected to be equipped with some form of embedded hardware and software designed to help fight a global pandemic such as COVID-19.

    The Big data analysis is also a promising driving force for the IoT to combat global virus pandemics. Several IoT technologies supported by big data and artificial intelligence are proposed, but realising that they may not reach their full potential during this particular period. The main disadvantage is the reluctance of the community to share personal information such as location and other vital health data. However, we anticipate a future with universal acceptance of data sharing for the benefit of the global community. Under the evolving IoT paradigm in an era of rapidly spreading virus pandemic, governments and society are expected to appreciate how technology can reduce the spread of the virus and save lives.

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