Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

SK Telecom deploys AI system to assist with COVID-19 quarantine

The telco's AI system will make voice calls to those in COVID-19 quarantine to check the status of their health.

SK Telecom deploys AI system to assist with COVID-19 quarantine

SK Telecom has deployed its artificial intelligence (AI) voice call service to assist health authorities with monitoring the health status of those in quarantine as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said.

The South Korean telco's AI, dubbed Nugu, will make voice calls twice a day to those in mandatory 14-day quarantine. The quarantine is currently imposed on those who come into contact with confirmed patients or those coming from abroad.

The monitoring task is currently done by staff at local public health centres for their respective district residents.

The Nugu AI will ask those in quarantine whether they have a fever, cough, or throat pains, among other questions that are currently asked by human staff, as well as check their temperature.

Patients who interact with Nugu will not be limited to only providing "yes" or "no" answers and can be more elaborate and complex in their explanations of their status, the telco said, and the system will process these answers to measure the seriousness of the patient's symptoms.

The results of these interactions will be collected as data and shown in spreadsheets to health authorities.

SK Telecom said it hopes Nugu will relieve the workloads of health authorities and increase monitoring efficiency.

The service went live on Wednesday for 1,500 residents in 18 districts at South Gyeongsang Province with the telco saying it would expand the service to other regions of South Korea after discussions with local governments.

Meanwhile, SK Telecom saw profits decline by 6.4% in the first quarter due to costs from building 5G networks and a decline in roaming earnings due to COVID-19.