AI & COVID-19: Safely Back to School

As we enter September, in one of the strangest years to date, COVID-19 has infiltrated nearly every facet of our everyday lives. When people leave their homes, it is normal to grab keys, cellphone, wallet and now a mask. For most, the changes have simply become the new routine. But one of the biggest disruptors caused by COVID-19 is in the return to campus for many college students. This results in colossal questions being asked, and one extremely important question:

How can we ensure the protection of our student-body, faculty and staff braving the return to college campuses across the globe?

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) released that “…current evidence suggests that COVID-19 spreads between people through direct, indirect (through contaminated objects or surfaces), or close contact with infected people via mouth and nose secretions. These are released from the mouth or nose when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings, for example.” We recognize that the spread of COVID-19 is an Airborne illness and yet, if colleges are to re-open this fall as many already have, how can we protect the integrity of the open, constructive in-person dialogue that many classrooms thrive upon? The answer exists, partially, in making the environment on campus the healthiest for all, limiting the spread of COVID-19.

According to the WHO, many reported outbreaks of COVID-19 share their occurrence in “closed settings, such as restaurants, nightclubs, places of worship or places of work where people may be shouting, talking, or singing.” Additionally, the lack of social-distancing in practice and lack of mask wearing increased the rate of the spread and we’ve seen in many States bars and restaurants closing again to contain outbreaks. One of the most important things to pay attention to regarding these outbreaks and the future spread is this statement from the WHO,

In these outbreaks, aerosol transmission, particularly in these indoor locations where there are crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces where infected persons spend long periods of time with others, cannot be ruled out.”

The World Health Organization

Beyond wearing a mask, social distancing and lowering the capacity of contained spaces, the physical environment of the classroom and broader spaces can have a profound effect on the virus’ ability to spread. We acknowledge that this is one of the keys leading to the decreased spread of COVID-19 on the College Campuses, increasing the safety for all. In fact, we are currently working with esteemed universities to prepare their shared spaces for the return of activity on campus.

For years, our team has followed the gold star of industry standard guidelines from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and other international equivalents in our work on campuses and beyond. ASHRAE published a report in April of 2020 to rebut some false statements regarding HVAC and also put out a full statement with guidelines regarding the optimal HVAC conditions to decrease the spread of COVID-19.

In their reports, ASHRAE specifically stated the following, “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the air is sufficiently likely that airborne exposure to the virus should be controlled. Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, can reduce airborne exposures.” This is not only pivotal to the re-opening of college campuses but in all industries where offices are re-opening for example, busy sales floors at large corporations or call centers where many people are talking all day long in close quarters.

In relation to universities and colleges specifically, our team works with facilities teams to automate implementation of the guidelines set by ASHRAE’s Epidemic Task Force. The new guidelines for COVID-19 are vast and the automated implementation by Maestro allows for facilities teams to focus on non-COVID-19 related projects. While Maestro’s core remains to reduce operational and energy spend, our team is passionate about making the working environment as safe as possible for students, faculty and staff to return to this fall.

With Maestro, it is possible to return to safer classrooms and offices, all while achieving significant energy and maintenance cost reduction opportunities through automated, no-cost measures across the campus, eliminating the need for direct human interaction with the University’s assets.

Contact us to learn how Maestro can make your campus a safer place to return to.


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College and University Campuses can Combat COVID-19

It’s graduation season around the world and for what seems like the first time, graduation will not commence per usual. The celebratory hustle and bustle of college campuses at this time of year is now replaced with empty classrooms, haunted hallways and desperate hopes that students will return in the Fall. The truth is, nobody knows what will happen in the Fall semester, but students aren’t the only ones feeling the immediate impacts of campus closures. Colleges and Universities are now scrambling to address not only the concerns of parents, students, and staff but also the significant impacts on endowments, revenues and their budgets going forward.

An Inside Higher Ed survey of 172 campus leaders shows that the number one concern remains bringing the students back to campus safely and continuing their high standards for education off campus. However, the financial focus is right up there, “more presidents citing a desire for financial health and operational planning support (60 percent) than for anything else.” Artificial Intelligence can address operational concerns while freeing up financial resources for other concerns such as faculty training and instructional technology.

Source: Inside Higher Ed

While revenues are experiencing immediate impact, the need to protect buildings and assets, ensure environmental compliance is met, and reduce building baseloads becomes more critical as staff and services are less present. After all, students need a campus to return to. Artificial Intelligence, and Maestro specifically, is primed to not only address these impacts in the immediate term but provide long-term stability and digital transformation.

At an operational level, buildings have been closed but the need to maintain them to prevent asset degradation and compliance requirements still need to be met. With fewer people onsite to identify and manage issues and IT stretched with online learning, now more than ever AI and autonomous or remote adoption of solutions need to be applied. At this point, it is likely that there are already significant maintenance backlogs, which AI can address and mitigate future negative impacts of.

The short-term, mid-term and long-term impacts can all be addressed through Maestro artificial intelligence in the following ways:


Short Term: Reduce costs, ensure compliance and protect assets through improved approach to managing assets with limited onsite staff. Optimize baseloads. Identify and prioritize critical failures. Iron out inconsistencies in data. Move to PPM.

Mid Term: Significant cost savings in resource efficiency, maintenance, increase asset life use, reduced capital expenditure.

Long Term: Enhanced scenario modelling for space optimization and asset acquisition ROI assessments.

Benefits like this can be achieved through Maestro’s artificial intelligence and neural network computing capabilities to target significant energy and maintenance cost reduction opportunities through automated, no-cost measures across the campus, eliminating the need for direct human interaction with the on campus assets. A run-rate to deliver a benefit of >$20m annually could easily be achieved in as little as 60 days through a rapid deployment of the technology and the prioritization of the highest energy cost consuming facilities.

In an effort to focus on creating a stable environment for students to come back to, Higher Education Institutions must turn to AI as a remedy for immediate negative financial and operational impacts caused by COVID-19. To learn more about how AI can turn your business operations around, stay tuned for our COVID-19 & AI series or contact our team today to learn more.


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AI & COVID-19

Throughout modern history, several infectious diseases have spread with sufficient speed, scale and severity to be considered pandemics. Malaria, Smallpox, H1N1, and HIV/AIDS, which remains active, made the list. COVID-19, however, is in a league of its own. The last pandemic of comparable economic impact, if not on human life, was the Spanish Flu, which directly followed WWI and wrought havoc in a significantly less interconnected world than the one in which we live today.

The Global Impacts of COVID-19 have already been unprecedented. “Stay-at-home,” “social-distancing” and travel and trade restrictions imposed to protect public health have had devastating impacts on the global economy, supply chain and employment. How and when this pandemic will end remains unclear. What is certain is that businesses now face an existential threat, and their leaders must take immediate action to set and execute strategies to weather the storm and ensure they are prepared for future economic, operational or human crisis.

In a time when “non-essential” businesses have been forced to shutter operations or shift to remote collaboration, and “essential” businesses face unparalleled demand alongside novel operational and supply chain challenges, how can manufacturers, O&G companies, airports, utilities, universities and other major businesses survive?

If they adapt quickly, can they thrive?

The answer to this question for industry lies in the adoption of end-end Artificial Intelligence.

Over the next few weeks, we will dive into the major business impacts of COVID-19 and how Elutions Artificial Intelligence platform, Maestro, is addressing them across multiple verticals.  We strongly believe that businesses that successfully and swiftly adopt automated, autonomous applications of AI and rethink their business models will be the ones realizing a competitive advantage once we return to a “new normal”.

Inspired by industrial trends a multitude of sources, reports by McKinsey and many others, Elutions’ AI & COVID-19 Series will specifically address the themes of Survival, Optimization, and Transformation. 


Survival: Artificial Intelligence applied immediately to stabilize business operations.

Optimization: Artificial Intelligence’s intermediary impacts, growing and preparing for a “new normal.”

Transformation: Artificial Intelligence’s long-term impacts in a post-pandemic landscape.


Check back in with us weekly for new content on how to address the business impacts of COVID-19 through the strategic application of end-end Artificial Intelligence.


Up Next: AI & COVID-19: Transformation


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Enterprise Artificial Intelligence – Academic Theory or Ready for Primetime?

Solvetheunsolvable has already explored various aspects of consumer AI and products purporting to leverage AI technologies, but is AI for Enterprise ready for primetime?

Investors aren’t the only ones betting big on Artificial Intelligence, it turns out Higher Education is also investing heavily into the space. With heavy investment in research and development, enterprise level AI seems to be having a rocky start.  Earlier this month Northeastern University allocated $50 million to an Institute for Experiential Artificial Intelligence. This institute will be dedicated to uniting leading experts to solve the world’s unsolvable problems.

“This new institute, the first of its kind, will focus on enabling artificial intelligence and humans to collaborate interactively around solving problems in health, security, and sustainability. We believe that the true promise of AI lies not in its ability to replace humans, but to optimize what humans do best.”


Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun

This isn’t Northeastern’s first step into the world of Artificial Intelligence and Automation. They already have an Institute for Experiential Robotics that is bringing together engineers, sociologists and other experts, including economists, to design and build robots with abilities to learn and execute human behaviors.  Northeastern isn’t just building Institutes for experts to conduct research, they are making it a priority to prepare their students for success in the age of artificial intelligence. They have an entire curriculum dedicated to what they call, humanics which is a key part of their strategic plan, Northeastern 2025.

Northeastern 2025 Promo Video

“We are building on substantial strengths across all colleges in the university,” said Carla Brodley, dean of the Khoury College of Computer Sciences. “Experiential AI is highly relevant to our mission.”

Though Northeastern is an example of one university betting heavily on AI, they are not alone in their quest to equip students with proper education for the AI-enabled future. In fact, government agencies are getting involved in funding AI in Education. The UK has pledged to invest £400 million in math, digital and technical education through the government’s AI sector deal to protect Britain’s technology sector amid Brexit and an additional £13 million for postgraduate education on AI. In the US, just a few days ago, the National Science Foundation announced a joint federal program to fund research focused on artificial intelligence at colleges, universities and nonprofit or nonacademic organizations focused on educational or research activities. 

The National Science Foundation is awarding $120 million to fund planning grants and support up to six institutes, but there’s a catch. Each institute must have a principal focus on at least one of six themes:

  • Trustworthy AI
  • Foundations of Machine Learning
  • AI-Driven Innovation in Agriculture and the Food System
  • AI-Augmented Learning
  • AI for Accelerating Molecular Synthesis and Manufacturing
  • AI for Discovery in Physics

As universities and governments bet big on the future of AI and education, it underscores the importance of AI on a global scale in the future, but does it call into question the current existence of AI solutions ready to take business to the next level? Utilizing AI and automation will be imperative for corporations to remain competitive and for the advancement of business, but when will the floodgates be swept open, and by who, remains a mystery.

Will you leap into the future and embrace AI now? How do you see the futuristic vision of enterprise AI transform your business? Challenge Solvetheunsolvable with your business conundrum or leave your thoughts in the comments below and let’s explore what AI can do for you. 


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