Innovators help society

17. April 2020. Marko Kozjak

Nada answers questions about the corona, and ZICER members also have an app that calculates how likely you are to get infected.

These are some of the tools for fighting coronavirus, which were designed by entrepreneurs from the Zagreb Innovation Center (ZICER) so that Croatian epidemiologists and doctors, in addition to medical weapons, also have technological weapons at their disposal.

She was created to answer all our questions about coronavirus at any time of the day or night instead of a doctor, and she knows just about everything we care about about the disease. She is Nada, a virtual assistant who answers questions about COVID-19 via Facebook, and it was created, says her “father” Dario Begonja from the company Hero Factory, in just a few days. It works, he says, very simply: all it takes is to report to the “inbox” of the Croatian Institute of Public Health (HZJZ), and then this chatbot takes overall communication.

– In the beginning, the robot offers the interlocutor an option of topics, such as checking for corona symptoms, how to protect oneself, who to contact … The user clicks on the one he is interested in, and the chatbot then answers his questions. It can cover about 80 per cent of them, and for the very specific ones, it points to the contacts of people who specialize in them. Nada can “talk” to 200-300 Facebook users a day, and each “conversation” lasts about 15 minutes – explains Begonja.

He adds that the project was created in cooperation with the CNIPH, modelled on countries where such a bot already exists, such as the USA, England and India, and its main goal is to ease the burden of the daily avalanche of questions about COVID-19.

However, it is only one of the tools for the fight against coronavirus, designed by entrepreneurs from the Zagreb Innovation Center (ZICER) so that Croatian epidemiologists and doctors, in addition to medical weapons, also have technological weapons at their disposal. The web application, which contains graphs of the growth of confirmed and real cases and a test of the probability of coronavirus infection depending on the number of contacts, to warn of the need to follow instructions on social distancing, is the work of Agilos IT, which also has an office in 12. pavilion of the Zagreb Fair.

We realized that many do not know what to actually do in this situation or in a panic forget and what they know. Therefore, we extracted the parameters on the basis of which we estimate the ratio of confirmed versus real cases and developed a model of virus spread. The main message of the algorithm is that the number of contacts should be reduced and recommendations should be followed – says the company’s director Ivan Žuna. Ljubomir Lokin and his colleagues at 3D Tech, on the other hand, use ZICER’s 3D printers to produce Venturi tubes for respirators, visors for medical staff and hooks for protective masks. According to the company’s director Luka Biondić, they gained experience in the production of dental aids, such as transparent braces, and they hardly leave the laboratory with printers, despite the fact that the premises at the Fair have been closed for ten days due to coronavirus. ZICER’s director Frane Šesnić, namely, because of the noble project, gave them the green light to continue working.

– Only a few days after the initiative, messages and calls started pouring in from all sides. We are doing this out of goodwill, and we want to activate other companies to help – says Biondić.

The innovator Marko Kozjak, the owner of the VeeMee company, also joined in. He has already become famous for the application of the same name, by which customers can find out from which family farm in a few seconds by scanning the QR code next to the fruit.

VeeMee platform

Now, however, it has assembled 1,300 of these family farms on a platform that functions as a digital marketplace. It connects customers and producers, and contacts are categorized by counties and types of products, from fruits and vegetables to dairy products and meat, and even seedlings.

– Our goal in this time is to convey extremely important information quickly, transparently, accurately and free of charge – says Kozjak.

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