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Communications and Medical Technology Will Combine to Save Lives

Marconi Society Coronavirus and Our Connected World

By Claude Berrou

Claude Berrou invented the ground-breaking Turbo-codes which led to modern advances in wireless, satellite and radio communications and have been incorporated into billions of devices. Berrou is the recipient of the Marconi Prize, the Médialle Ampère and the IEEE Information Theory Golden Jubilee Award for Technological Innovation.

A little over a hundred years ago, the Spanish flu epidemic (caused by an H1N1 virus) infected about three percent of the world’s population and wiped out more than fifty million human beings.

Imagine my grandfather, a survivor of the First World War, reuniting with his family in a remote part of the Breton countryside and learning from the local newspaper about the rapid and violent advance of this new enemy, which was invisible. For him, the newspaper was the only way to get information and to find the few pieces of advice the authorities could then give, including the measure of quarantine, which was unfortunately late in coming.

Today, like the vast majority of my compatriots in all parts of France and the world, I am obliged to stay at home confronted by an enemy that is just as invisible and devious as H1N1. But I have a new ally that my grandfather did not know: technology, and especially the Internet.

Technology allows me to be constantly connected to the world in order to receive the information that my family and I need to minimize risks and dangers. It also provides me with news from all over the world, so that I can read or listen to expert analyses and forecasts and ideally stay hopeful.

In all likelihood, the combination of communications technology and medical technology , which has made astounding advances in recent decades, will contain the fatalities from COVID-19 so that they will be considerably fewer than those of the Spanish flu. These tens of millions of lives saved are thanks to many admirable people in the medical world and research laboratories. Their dedication is now multiplied by outstanding advances in technology, especially in computing and electronics. Technology is going to save many lives.