Chinese anti-coronavirus technology: from thermometer drones to sneaky apps if you get sick

China is a totalitarian state in which the use of technology has been crucial to monitor and control the population during the coronavirus epidemic

Every morning at the same time, the messaging service of the China Unicom telephone company begins with its bombardment of notifications: ” Please download the application and complete the daily health check . Your information will only be used for prevention and control of epidemics, “says one message after another.

When you open the link, a drawing of a nurse with a mask appears, inviting you to record all your data and to tell what your last trips have been. Then he asks if you have a fever, cough, or dyspnea. If yes, in a few minutes a guy wearing a red armband with the symbols of the Communist Party of China will appear on your door to take your temperature, ask you more questions, ask you not to leave home in a few days and give yourself a sheet with a list of the closest hospitals.

There is also another application, designed by the technological giant Alibaba, which resembles the traffic light game that caused such fury years ago at Spanish teenage parties. While the kids enjoyed their blue tropic with pineapple in the light clubs, they could choose three colored stickers depending on their availability to flirt. Red meant that one already had a partner and was faithful. Amarillo, who had some kind of relationship but who, if the occasion arose, was willing to have new experiences. And if the green sticker was chosen, it was implied that one wanted to chew that night. Although, normally, it was precisely the -or- the green ones that in the end did not eat a single thread.


With the coronavirus and the application of Alibaba something similar happens. Alipay Health Code is a software administered by the Chinese government that classifies people in three colors: red, yellow and green. If you are among the last, don’t worry, you can move freely. On your mobile you will have a QR code with which you can enter the metro or the few restaurants that are open. But if it is yellow or red, it is better not to leave the house. It will be signaled by the system, which will immediately notify the police . You will become a “person at risk”, that is, you have any symptoms of Covid-19 or have been in the area of ​​high contagion for the past 14 days.

This application is already mandatory in more than 200 Chinese cities . The New York Times published a report yesterday in which they told how they had carried out an analysis of the software code for this program. “The system does more than decide in real time if someone presents a risk of contagion. It also seems to share information with the police , establishing a template for new forms of automated social control that could persist long after the epidemic disappears, “the American newspaper warned. Although the authorities, through the state news agency Xinhua, have ensured that all the data collected will only be used to fight the coronavirus outbreak and that it will then be deleted.

China has been cloistered for too long because of the Wuhan coronavirus . More than 40 days from the largest sanitary lock in history. The World Health Organization (WHO) praises the draconian measures that the Asian giant has applied to contain the virus. The closure of large cities, isolating more than 56 million people in Hubei province, closing shops, banning transport … And, of course, using the best technology. President Xi Jinping specifically asked the technology sector to help combat the epidemic.


On the streets of big cities like Beijing or Shanghai we have seen disinfectant robots and drones equipped with thermal cameras to take the temperature of all the residents of the same building. The Shenzhen-based Pudu Technology company, which generally makes robots for the catering industry, has installed its machines in more than 40 hospitals across the country to assist medical personnel. And MicroMultiCopter, also in Shenzhen, has deployed its drones to transport medical samples from hospitals to laboratories.

The last invention that we have seen have been smart helmets that can measure the temperature within a radius of five meters. If someone tests positive, the helmet emits an alarm. These days it has been used by officials from the city of Chengdu, in Sichuan province. The helmet, manufactured by the technology firm Kuang-Chi Technologies, is capable of taking the temperature of more than 200 people in less than two minutes .

In the technological fight against the coronavirus in China, the famous facial recognition systems should not be forgotten either . Companies are already using them to scan crowds for fever and identify people who don’t wear masks. For example, from SenseTime, the leading artificial intelligence company in China, they say that their non-contact temperature detection software has been implemented in the metro stations of Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. And they assure that they are able to ” recognize faces even if people wear masks “.

Today, the Asia Times newspaper was also publishing an interesting article on how China is using the location data on the phones of millions of citizens to contain the spread of Covid-19 .

They explain that, according to Chinese authorities sources familiar with these programs, government algorithms can estimate the probability that a given neighborhood, or even an individual, will be exposed to the coronavirus by matching the location of smartphones with known locations. of infected individuals or groups.

Authorities would use this information to use limited medical resources more efficiently, for example, by targeting the virus at high-risk subjects identified by the artificial intelligence algorithm.

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