Tech pitches in to fight COVID-19 pandemic

A growing number of tech companies and IT pros are working in a variety of ways to help fight the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Here's a rundown of what some of them are doing to help fight COVID-19.

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"The coronavirus outbreak has put enormous pressure on medical professionals and frontline workers globally," Carl Silbersky, CEO of BIMobject, said in a statement. "Medical supplies and equipment, such as face shields and ventilators, are in very short supply. Beyond equipment, field hospitals are being set up around the world to treat COVID-19 patients. With no time for lengthy planning arrangements and contracts, designing these temporary hospitals requires dexterity and agility.

"...Like many organizations globally, we at BIMobject want to help as best we can," Silbersky said. "To do so, we’ve opened up our platform to host any information on products that can help combat the outbreak. At our COVID-19 page we are collecting everything from 3D printing files for medical equipment – including masks and ventilator parts – to designs for emergency hospitals, shelters and supporting structures. 

"With details of relevant medical equipment and designs now freely available on our platform, we hope our global community will help spread the knowledge of these products. These products can help save lives and, by connecting the people that need them to the people that have them, we hope to do our bit to help."

Files can be uploaded here, the company said.

Synology offers VPN Plus licenses for free

Taiwan-based Synology said Monday it will offer VPN Plus licenses for its Synology routers for free until Sept. 30. 

"We have seen many businesses rushing to adopt VPN solutions in order to set up an infrastructure to enable a remote workforce," said Hewitt Lee, Director of Synology Product Management Group. "Over the past two months, we have seen a five-fold increase in VPN Plus license purchases. As the situation continues to develop in unprecedented ways, we understand that many are uncertain of how to maintain business continuity. Synology is offering VPN Plus licenses for free in an effort to help businesses resume operations remotely." 

Current and new owners of Synology's RT1900ac, RT2600ac, and MR2200ac wireless routers can purchase VPN Plus Client VPN Access and Site-to-Site VPN licenses for free," the company said. The licenses are perpetual and do not expire or require additional costs after Sept. 30..

Apple says it's sourced 20M masks for medical workers

Apple CEO Tim Cook took to Twitter on Monday to announce it has sourced 20 million masks for medical workers through the company's supply chain. In a two-minute video, Cook also said Apple is now working to "design, produce and ship" face shields for those on the front lines fighting the pandemic.

"Our first shipment was delivered to Kaiser Hospital facilities in the Santa Clara valley this past week," he said, showing one of the shields. The company plans to ship 1 million of the shields by the end of this week, and 1 million per week after that. Apple hopes to eventually make shipments outside the U.S. as well.

HPE Aruba provides network help to floating hospital in Italy

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, has installed network infrastructure on the GNV Splendid, a passenger ferry that has been turned into a floating hospital to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moored in Genoa, Italy, the ship now provides added hospital space and medical treatment for COVID-19 patients. The network includes 70 access points and more 4 kilometers of cable, providing Wi-Fi coverage for healthcare workers and patients on board.

In addition to support for data transfers to and from Genoa hospital, the network is designed to improve the day-to-day experience for patients, giving them full internet connectivity. It also allows ambulance crews to provide real-time updates on the status of patients as they arrive.

The ship has been converted to support 25 patients, with cabins converted into isolation chambers, and is equipped with oxygenators to treat coronavirus patients who need low-intensity care and for recovery. If needed, the ship can increase its capacity to house about 400 patients.

Aruba is also donating $50 million in secure network connectivity kits for the provisioning of pop-up clinics, testing sites and temporary hospital facilities in the US, Canada and several countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Cortado offers up free 50GB 'data rooms'

Berlin-based Cortado, which provides enterprise mobility and file sharing solutions for businesses, is offering free virtual data rooms for home offices and/or team collaboration efforts. The company's Teamplace software is for those "who prefer to work in their home office [and] need a virtual room in which they can work and share documents with others in the simplest possible way.

"With Teamplace, such virtual workspaces can be created very easily, without VPNs and shared with colleagues, partners or customers," the company said in a statement. "Cortado's cloud storage solution, which is dedicated to teamwork, offers Office 365 integration for editing documents, a comment function, file versioning, and an activity overview. The data is encrypted during transmission and securely stored on servers located in Germany."

Users interested in the data rooms start with 5GB of space, but the company said it would provide 50GB if needed. Users must send an e-mail to hello@teamplace.net and explain the data room's purpose to qualify.

Postman develops COVID-19 testing site with crowdsourced info

Postman, a San Francisco-based platform for API development, has crafted a website that relies on crowdsourced information to locate coronavirus testing sites in the U.S.

"This effort to crowdsource and centralize the availability of COVID-19 testing locations across all 50 U.S. states uses two freely available online tools, while using APIs to make sure the location data can be syndicated and distributed as widely as possible," Postman said in a statement. "This resource can also maintain the accuracy and freshness of the API’s source data by centrally managing it via Google Sheets. Contributors can email the Postman team when they find new or updated testing sites, and API developers can contribute their expertise via the GitHub page."

The effort follows the company's recently launched Postman COVID-19 API Resource Center, a list of APIs for health care workers, researchers, and government experts who need quick access to real-time critical data.

Spell looks to boost ML efforts in COVID-19 fight

New York-based Spell, which provides a platform for machine-learning and data analytics, is providing a number of resources – and free GPU compute access – to people and institutions fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

"Are you a machine learning engineer or data scientist eager to contribute your technical expertise to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic? We’re here to help," the company said on its website. "In record time, the machine learning community has rallied together, organizing a large number of projects and crowdsourced efforts that enable practitioners to effectively contribute time and energy to this cause."

The resources Spell highlighted include:

  • CORD-19, a body of work that contains full texts and paper abstracts from 44,000 journal articles covering COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, and the coronavirus family of viruses. It's available for download or as a Kaggle dataset.
  • LitCovid, a literature hub that provides a reference list of 1,500 COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 -specific papers curated by subject matter experts. Many of these articles are open access, and users can download paper metadata as a CSV file.
  • The 2019-nCoV dashboard, which was created by Johns Hopkins, tracks the regional and international spread of COVID-19. The dashboard is regularly updated and continues to be among the most accurate trackers on the web, according to Spell.
  • Collaboration spaces for data scientists. These include Data Against COVID, a Discourse channel for data scientists looking to collaborate on COVID-19 -related data science projects; and Help With COVID, a Y Combinator created volunteer-to-project matching website for COVID-19 -related software projects.

Amplify.ai, Messenger team up on AI messaging

Amplify.ai, which develops AI-driven, conversational virtual assistants, is offering up its virtual assistant for free to government health organizations fighting the pandemic. The company partnered with Facebook to allow the organizations to share information with concerned citizens during the COVID-19 outbreak. The company also deployed a COVID-19 virtual assistant for the Indian Government through MyGov, the world’s largest government-to-citizen digital infrastructure, with more than 500 million users.

"Given the rapid rate of change around the pandemic, Amplify.ai’s Messenger experience can automate responses to commonly asked questions and push information to a large population in a timely manner," the company said in a statement. "The main focus of Amplify.ai’s solution...is that it is interactively delivering the latest news, expert information and official updates, while providing one-on-one engagements and solutions within 24 hours. The platform uses personalization, custom variables, and conversational data gathering analytics to provide citizens with COVID-19 information regarding test sites, symptoms, results turn-around time, and more."

“In pressing times like these, our team is equipped and dedicated to working in tandem with the team at Facebook ... to help government health organizations and UN agencies combat COVID-19,” said Amplify.ai CEO and co-founder Mahi de Silva. “Our AI-powered, interactive platform delivers valuable insights not only to local organizations about community specific questions and issues but helps inform millions of citizens around the world with a fast turnaround.”

CenturyLink donates high-speed internet to temp hospitals

As the number of temporary hospitals grows in the U.S. to help patients affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, CenturyLink said it's donating mich-needed fast internet connections to the facilities.

"Grappling with the sudden need for more hospital beds and overflow capacity, local municipalities are transforming various facilities into temporary field hospitals," the company said in a statement. The list of facilities the company is provisioning now includes:

  • The U.S. Naval Ship Mercy, now operating at the port of Los Angeles. CenturyLink set up high-speed connectivity for the Mercy and a 1-gigabit Ethernet circuit connecting the Defense Information Systems Agency's shored-based Naval Air Station North Island to the ship.
  • The CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle, which got a 200 Mbps fiber connection.
  • The Oregon State Fair and Exposition Center in Salem, Ore., which got a 1-gigabit Ethernet connection.
  • Seattle, which got high-speed fiber internet connections at eight quarantine locations.

"This is the beginning of our essential work to assist healthcare workers on the front lines, as we respond where we are needed the most," said Ed Morche, CenturyLink's president of government and enterprise markets. "As these needs arise across the country, CenturyLink is coordinating with local government, hospitals, and the military to locate field hospitals on our network so we can provide immediate connectivity."

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