More Good News: Innovation in Tech, Health Care and Social Policy in a World Shaped by COVID-19


The number of online hackathons and funded prizes to encourage innovative solutions to the problems created by the pandemic are increasing. The Decentralized AI Alliance, under leadership of SingularityNET and Ocean Protocol, has created the Covidathon  which is bringing together global AI and blockchain projects and developers to create intelligent decentralized tools to combat COVID-19 and to reduce risks from future infectious outbreaks. The hackathon runs from April 1 to June 1 and offers mentorship to participants.  The solutions are sought under four tracks: Medicine and Epidemiology, Data Privacy and Sovereignty, Informational and Coping Tools and Open Innovation.

From April 10 -13 the Code19 Hackathon, based in India, brought together over 6000 hackers, mentors, domain experts, and socially-conscious citizens to work on open source solutions to solve problems related to India’s pandemic crisis. The hackathon was sponsored by the Silicon-Valley-based Motwani Jadeja Family Foundation which offered $34,000.00 U.S. in prize money.  90% of the participants were younger than 25 years old.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the White House and a coalition of leading research groups have prepared the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19).  According to the webpage, CORD-19 is a resource of over 51,000 scholarly articles, including over 40,000 with full text, about COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, and related coronaviruses. This freely available dataset is provided to the global research community to apply recent advances in natural language processing and other AI techniques to generate new insights in support of the ongoing fight against this infectious disease.

NASA is using its internal crowdsourcing platform NASA@Work to source ideas from NASA employees in addition to supporting outside research groups with access to supercomputing and AI Technology.

Innocentive an organization that coordinates challenges proposed by governments nonprofits and corporations across multiple industries is maintaining a list of active hackathon and research incentives related to COVID-19. Innocentive crowd sources solvers, and currently has a database of 400,000 plus individuals the majority of whom are degreed at the master’s level that compete for prize money while brainstorming solutions to difficult problems.  Innocentive was formed on the belief that asking the right question at the right time can make all the difference – and there are always people outside your organization with better ideas from independent thinking.  There are currently 6 challenges related to COVID-19 listed and 900 crowd sourced problem solvers listed as working on the challenges.


The quest for a vaccine continues.  The World Health Organization announced that there are currently 70 vaccines in the pipeline and three of those have been determined to be highly promising. The furthest along in the clinical process is an experimental vaccine developed by Hong Kong-listed CanSino Biologics Inc. and the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology, which is in phase 2. The other two being tested in humans are treatments developed separately by U.S. drugmakers Moderna Inc. and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc., according to a WHO document.

AstraZenaca is testing the effectiveness of its new cancer drug Calquence to suppress the immune response COVID-19 patients experience that leads to excessive respiratory inflammation.

An Israeli company, Pluristem has successfully treated one American and six Israeli COVID patients  who had been intubated for weeks prior to treatment using an experimental cell therapy. The US treatment was administered under the US Food and Drug Administration’s Single Patient Expanded Access Program, which is part of the US Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program – an emergency program aimed at getting treatments to corona patients as quickly as possible.

Medtronic is releasing the full design specifications, produce manuals, design documents and, in the future, software code for its Puritan Bennett (PB) 560 portable ventilator hardware as free open source information so other companies can produce the units.  The ventilator is lightweight and has been proven to work since 2010. Medtronic released this version because it is fairly simple design and the Company believes it will be a good platform for inventors and others to use as a base for adopted designs with improvements.

Ford has announced plan to manufacture 50,000 ventilators in the next 100 days in partnership with GE Healthcare and the support of the Union of Automobile Workers. The ventilator design was licensed from a Florida company owned by GE called Airon.  The production will start April 20 in Michigan and after the first 50,000 are produced, the assembly line will be able to produce up to 30,000 ventilators a month based on need.

PikMyKid, a Tampa company with a a Software-as-a-Service platform that’s used to make the process for parents picking up their children after school faster and safer wants to convert their software to speed drive thru COVID Testing, and is waiting for confirmation of funding to begin the work.

Shared Harvest is a nonprofit fintech platform where nonprofits get matched with skilled volunteers.  The platform recently added a free telehealth app and online portal called myCOVIDMD that safely connects individuals to resources in real-time, with real people providing the services.  Community Health Partners (CHPs), a volunteer task force does the work  speaking with callers.  The goal of the program is to create a grassroots and virtual triaging system to reach people that are uninsured, underinsured and/or displaced from a medical home due to COVID-19 and city-wide quarantine.  Resources offered through the app include medical assessments, a crisis buddy, and a virtual provider appointment within 15 minutes. They also plan to also provide users with access to drive through testing at pop-up community locations.  The fintech platform is offering volunteers student debt relief or emergency savings funds through the Shared Harvest platform.


Kinsa Health has utilized uploaded temperature data collected from its digital “smart” thermometers and the paired phone app used by consumers to track temperature data from across the country and provide real-time insights into emerging COVID-19 hot spots. The “Heat” map shows concentrations of abnormally high temperatures, which is an indicator of a COVID outbreak and may have predictive value for health care providers looking for outbreaks.

XMode and Tectonix have teamed up to use data on movement on slow moving vehicles and people to measure the rate of compliance with social distancing by developing heat maps that depict frequency and numbers of slow moving pedestrians, cyclists etc being on the streets of cities.  The data shows that Italians were more compliant with social distancing orders than the citizens of Shanghai and Seattle.

The volunteer group COVID19cz is using mapping and telephonic interviews to track the contacts of COVID-19 patients. Anyone infected is interviewed by an operator to track their past contacts. The operator is using a Memory Map, which includes telephonic data, banking data, phone location history and other sources to help the patient remember their whereabouts and contacts. All with user’s consent and within GDPR.  Contacts identified by the patient are considered new suspected cases and those people are then invited to be tested.  Czechoslovakia has adopted this model and the developers are offering the software and process to any country for free.

Apple and Google announced a partnership to allow the 3 billion smart phone users on the planet  (that is 1/3 of the global population) to opt in to an app that will notify them when they have come in contact with someone with COVID-19. The process will work like this – starting in May if a user tests positive for COVID-19, and adds that data to their public health app, users who they came into close proximity with over the previous several days will be notified of their contact if they also have the app. They will be asked to self-quarantine. This period could be 14 days, but health agencies can set the time range.  The second phase of the project in June will eliminate the need to download the app, and it will be installed on all phones and consumers will be given the option to opt in.

Maps are also being used to track the number of Coronavirus cases at the global level, national level, and state level. While there is some argument about the data being used for these maps, they offer daily updated data on the pandemic.  Similar maps are being used to identify trends in cases by neighborhood, ethnicity and income level.


Bright Machines is a startup that created a software-defined microfactory, bringing together machine learning, computer vision and configurable robotic cells, enabling intelligent assembly and inspectionThe Company automates production lines for other companies to increase the speed of automation and implementation.  The Company announced that it will provide no-cost automation for up to 12 months for Bright Machines Select three-year agreements devoted to assembling a medical device solution to combat COVID-19.  Select is a manufacturing-as-a-service aimed at simplifying the automation procurement process and includes hardware, software and support for one annual fee.

An open source google doc COVID medical supply guide has been started and repeatedly updated.  The most recent update states  that the update “added a number of open source PPE plans: face shields, face masks, gowns; added new supply categories: bias tape makers and mask helpers; notes about disinfecting/reusing N95s; updated FAQ section regarding new FDA guidelines for 3D printing.”


Batelle announced the availability of its Critical Care Decontamination System which can decontaminate up to 80,000 used N95 respiratory masks per day. Decontaminated masks can be used up to twenty times.   The company is currently conducting research to determine if the decontamination system can be used on other types of PPE.  The system was developed by the US Military as part of its Pandemic preparations. On April 13 the Pentagon awarded a 415 million dollar contract to the company to produce “60 Battelle Memorial Institute Critical Care Decontamination Systems (CCDS) The Defense Department said six units have already been delivered to multiple US cities including two to New York, and one each to Columbus, Ohio, Boston, Chicago and Tacoma, “providing the ability to sterilize 3.4 million masks a week, reducing the need for new masks by the same number.”

“All 60 systems will be available by early May for prioritization and distribution by FEMA and HHS. Once all are delivered, these 60 units will allow 4.8 million masks to be sterilized per day, almost 34 million per week,” the statement added.

Private engineers have designed and released plans to allow conversion of Decathlong and Sportisimo snorkel masks to PPE to protect medical personnel. The main advantage of this solution is that the mask covers the whole face so the infection should have no chance to get to the body via airways or nasal mucosa. The main disadvantage is that huge numbers of snorkel masks are being bought for medical use – no way that anyone can buy snorkel masks for actual snorkeling anytime soon!

The website of the nonprofit Protect COVID Staff announced the development of the Aerosol Box which provides an extra layer of protection for medical staff by helping to block the dispersion of Covid-19 laden droplets/spray during respiratory procedures. The box can be quickly placed over the head and chest of the patient, and afterwards is easily disinfected for reuse. This Aerosol Box has been evaluated by Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Boston Medical Center and is being used in many hospitals.  The website also described the Aerosol Shield which has open sides for easy access to equipment and the patient, and free maneuverability for the clinician’s hands and arms. A medical grade clear drape attached to the shield provides additional protection for the clinician and assisting medical staff.  The portable shield can be easily disinfected and stored for future reuse.  The website has links to the manufacturers of these products as well as specs and designs for variations of the products being developed by innovators.


Many cities are now taking steps to proactively address housing the homeless to curb infection rates.  Locally, Tampa has created a 100 tent city with bathrooms and showers.  In Washington, Philadelphia, and New Orleans the cities are providing hotel rooms for the homeless.  In San Jose the city is using a combination of tiny homes, mobile homes and hotel rooms. San Francisco has attempted to create large warehouse facilities with social distancing, although this has drawn some criticism as a solution.  Some of this is being funded using anticipated federal support from the CARES program; other cities are using their own funds.  Either way, it is a concerted effort to house a large number of homeless people in a very short period of time – and that is definitely departure from business as usual.

On Monday the 14th an informal alliance was launched in the European Parliament made up of 79 EU Ministers of the Environment from across the political spectrum, civil society groups, including 37 CEOs, 28 business associations, the European trade union confederation, 7 NGOs and 6 think tanks.  The focus of the alliance is to use recovery funds to rebuild the economy to support ecological change by focusing on advances in new technologies such as renewables, zero-emission mobility, agro-ecology, and energy efficiency technology.  The European Union has pledged that the recovery will happen in the context of the 2050 zero emission goal – but that the proposed trillion-euro Green New Deal will fund assistance to the coal producing areas so they don’t bear the brunt of the transition of the economy to clean energy.


If you are looking for resources to make your company operate more effectively on a remote platform, check out the listing of COVID-19 related deals and freebies being offered by companies around the world.  Last night the list had 257 deals on it from both big companies and startups.

For healthcare and other essential workers, childcare has become an issue since schools and daycares are closed.  Komae, a babysitting cooperative app is trying to help.  The website says” Social distance is essential to slowing the spread of COVID-19. At the same time, our communities must support our healthcare and critical infrastructure workers so they can continue working. During this challenging time the Komae app is available for free as a tool to help schedule and manage childcare coverage for our most essential workforces. The Komae app is a cooperative childcare app that provides an important care management option for healthcare workers, first responders, and those working for essential businesses. Traditionally on Komae, parents swap ‘Komae Points’ as a way to manage and coordinate care for their children within a trusted network. But for those who need to receive more help than they’re able to give in return, we are providing free ‘Komae Points’ as much as needed. In this way, the app can be used to coordinate the rotation of care days and communicate need within trusted groups.”

Looking for toilet paper or Clorox? you can use the app instok to search stores near you and limit your exposure to other people. Using crowdsourced data and stocking data from participating stores like Walmart, target, CVS and others, you can search by product and the app lists all stores near you with the item in stock.  You can also compare prices.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York is offering free art classes online through Coursera during the pandemic in subjects including modern art, seeing through photography and fashion as design.  You can also visit the museum’s website, and the website of the Paul Getty museum in Los Angeles and the Musee D’Orsay in Paris to take a virtual tour of those museums.

Homeschooling your kids? Outschool, an online education provider is offering 1 million dollars in free classes to assist parents teaching their kids.