How 5G+AI+AR Will Create Next-Gen Protection Against Pandemics

eWEEK TREND ANALYSIS: Part of what is coming is vastly improved AR glasses. These would allow you to easily pick out anyone running a temperature, enabling you to avoid people who both have the virus and are the most viral.


I was on a call with Qualcomm today, and they were covering the advantages of the AI capabilities in their 5G solutions coming to the market. Much of the message focused on how this distributed intelligence, when tied to similar advancements with carrier equipment, would massively improve the quality and reliability of our cell phone calls. Other improvements to anticipate are significant battery life upgrades and, of course, even more massive increases in security, bandwidth and connectivity.

But, like you, I’m living in a post-COVID-19 world, and I wanted to know how this technology would keep me from getting sick.

It will do that, but much of this protection will likely not be available until the next pandemic, and given there will be a next one—likely in a few years—I thought it would be interesting to explore what is coming. I’ll provide individual examples of advances and then roll them up into a solution that might make home quarantine for people that aren’t sick obsolete.

Better IR AR Glasses

Part of what is coming is vastly improved AR glasses. These will both be more attractive and more capable than we have today. One feature I’m anticipating, thanks to this virus, is the ability to set up alerts based on what the glasses see. If the cameras the glasses use have, as they most likely will, IR capabilities for things like facial recognition (one of the most attractive AR features is connecting a face you see with a name), you can also “see” temperature.

Setting a parameter should allow you to easily pick out and avoid anyone who is running a temperature. This feature set would allow you to avoid people who both have the virus and are the most viral. You could also look at a group, and depending on how many people are showing a fever, decide before joining that group whether you want to take the risk or not.

The localized AI could then provide you with advice on how to proceed, either to report what you have seen or to exit the area safely.  

Collective Reporting

The AI would also, with permission, report back what it has seen to the cloud, allowing for not only better advice on what you should do but potentially reporting localized risks. I expect the government will want to respond if a person is running a fever in an area where they could spread whatever they have widely. This capability could also work if the localized AI were trained to look for things like firearms.  

People often see mass shooters as they approach their targets, and everyone wearing these glasses could be part of an effective early warning system that didn’t require arming more civilians. The directive has been since 9/11 if you see something, say something, and this would potentially make this automatic.

Sites could use the data to enforce social distancing better, and the resulting system could report automatically if the user were attacked or injured—recording the incident to the cloud both for a more rapid response and for more effective identification and prosecution of the attacker.

Completing the Loop

Now with the analysis on the phone and in the cloud, the user could see warnings if he or she were entering an area where it was unsafe. Too many people, too many sick people, a known shooter—this future solution would give an alert, giving the user a chance to survive and not become a statistic. If there were overcrowding, multiple people running temperatures or a person identified with a gun in the area, the glasses would provide the user with that information, who could then decide the best course of action to keep himself safe. Even during a fire, as long as the connection was maintained, the glasses could provide GPS navigation, such as directions to guide you out, even in the thickest smoke. And, in an active shooter event, it would not only notify a user, but the glasses’ advice could be coordinated with police response so you could take the safest path away from the danger.

Other less dramatic advantages using both local and cloud resources would be to guide you to people in the area you knew, with whom you had interests in common, had similar sexual orientations and who were either also single or married. Granted, all of this would require the other party to opt into sharing that information. Thanks to social media, there is already a critical mass of folks that appear to be OK with sharing this stuff.  

Wrapping Up

When you combine 5G to get the bandwidth, AI to get the intelligence and AR (augmented reality) to understand and provide the relevant information, a new exciting solution emerges. This solution could let you know that there are sick and dangerous people to avoid, people around you whom you’d enjoy talking to, and the ability to help digitally coordinate a safe exit from a hazardous event. This powerful combination could become the next digital assistant success by effectively putting that assistant on your head and focusing it on keeping you safe, healthy and more efficient.

And right now, we could all use a tool that could better keep us safe, healthy and more efficient—something to look forward to this week. Stay safe, everyone!

Rob Enderle is a principal at Enderle Group. He is a nationally recognized analyst and a longtime contributor to QuinStreet publications and Pund-IT.