Smart sanitation robot in South Korea calculates virus spread in closed spaces

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The Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials under South Korea’s Ministry of Science and ICT has created a smart robot for infectious disease prevention that estimates virus spread in indoor spaces using artificial intelligence.

WHAT IT DOES

According to a media release, the AI robot is able to map out its own disinfection path in real-time. Through a probability mapping algorithm, it estimates where viruses are mostly concentrated based on CCTV data of the number of people in an enclosed area and their length of stay. Then, it goes along its calculated path and sprays clean air sterilised by ultraviolet radiation, instead of the usual UV-C sterilisation lamps which can be harmful to humans. It fumigates seats and air even if people are around.

KIMM is planning to demonstrate the device, which was developed in tandem with equipment manufacturer Vision Semicon, Co., at unmanned cafes. 

WHY IT MATTERS

KIMM noted that existing robotic technologies for preventing infectious diseases are constrained by their low efficiency and the lack of close consideration for virus distribution in a given space. Additionally, their use of UV-C sterilisation lamps makes it ineffective for sanitising indoor areas occupied by many people, such as cafes and restaurants. 

By identifying people’s locations and targeting probable virus-dense areas, their smart sanitation robot offers “great efficiency” in cleaning the air in commercial facilities. A recent article by Harvard Medical School professor Edward Nardell shared that air cleaning technologies can effectively reduce in-room transmission of airborne infections if they can produce at least six equivalent air changes per hour, or the measure of air volume added to or removed from a space in one hour.

MARKET SNAPSHOT

One such existing autonomous sanitation robot is the UVC-LD robot by Omron Asia-Pacific and Techmetics Robotics. Introduced in June 2020, the robot independently navigates and disinfects premises by carrying out a precise dosage of UV-C light. It follows a mapped route and can move through narrow corridors, elevators and automatic doors. To ensure safety while cleaning, it shuts off radiation light if it detects a human.

Disinfection robots have also been rolled out in Samsung Medical Center following a tech deal with KT Corporation in September. Other smart robots that the tertiary hospital has deployed were those that deliver blood across surgery rooms and bring medical items to doctors.

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