The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region, infecting over 180,000 individuals across 10 countries. Though Thailand was one of the first countries in the region where the virus made landfall in January 2020, it has successfully managed to keep the virus under control. As of July 2020, the country has 3,200 COVID-19 cases and 58 deaths.
Regardless of their success, Thailand remains vigilant to prevent a second wave of COVID-19 infections. Telecommunications giant Huawei is helping the country combat the spread of COVID-19 through the use of 5G technology.
The company recently collaborated with the Thailand National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) to implement a pilot project that saw the use of a driverless vehicle at the Siriraj Hospital. The unmanned vehicle was primarily used to conduct contactless deliveries of medical supplies around one of the largest and oldest hospitals in the kingdom.
According to the Siriraj Hospital, the pilot project is aimed towards enhancing the logistic system within the hospital, using it to transport and distribute medical supplies to patients while reducing the workload and risk of infection to frontline workers. Thailand is the first country in ASEAN to deploy commercial 5G services.
Huawei Thailand chief executive officer Abel Deng said the pilot project exemplifies the accelerated digitalisation of Thailand’s medical services. The company hopes that the implementation of 5G technology will become a key driving force in the restoration of Thailand’s economy while helping it drive economic growth.
“The pilot project exemplifies the accelerated digitalisation of Thailand’s medical services as 5G will play a key role in the next generation of healthcare. We hope that 5G’s application in the public health domain will inspire businesses in other sectors to leverage on it as well as explore new applications of the technology,” he added.
The NBTC said it recognises the competitive advantages of 5G technology in different sectors and hopes it will help the country get ready for further digital transformation. The technology is already being utilised for remote medical services and is piloted in the remote treatment of eye diseases, skin diseases, blood pressure abnormalities and diabetes. It said it will evaluate the benefits and efficiency of the 5G-enabled unmanned vehicle in the pilot before exploring other uses of the solution and potentially expand its use to other hospitals.
There are also other ongoing projects by the NBTC that aim to drive greater adoption of 5G technology in Thailand. This has also been extended to include local prisons, providing medical access to prisoners in remote areas.
Back in April, a Malaysian university developed an autonomous delivery robot called MCK19 or “Makcik Kiah” to help reduce exposure for front line workers which were facing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) at the time. The robot comes with built-in shelves that can accommodate payloads of up to 300kg, helping doctors and nurses deliver food and medicine to patients afflicted with COVID-19. The autonomous delivery robot is based on DF’s commercial Zalpha robot and was deployed at the Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz (HCTM).