The Benefits of Blockchain in a Pandemic | NIX
NIX | Bronze Sponsors at the Blockchain Expo 4-5 November 2020.
Blockchains are a very new development in the world of technology, but their impact is already tremendous. While Blockchain is perhaps most well-known for its use in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, their real strength lies in their security and distributed nature.
Blockchain usage has gradually grown in businesses over the past five years. But it is only now that Blockchain has really started to make significant inroads. In some ways, the progress it has made and the hurdles it has cleared are due to the pandemic’s impact globally.
Some of that impetus has come from the World Health Organization (WHO) itself and its use of MiPasa. This joint project between the WHO, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, and others is focused on verifiable data, which has been a problem many researchers have faced throughout the pandemic. This distributed ledger technology (DLT) lets field personnel input data that gets stripped of identifiable information, helping hospitals and medical professionals with early identification and determining hotspots.
Identifying the Major Challenges of COVID-19
While there had long been discussion in medical circles about the imminent arrival of a global pandemic, world governments were unprepared for COVID-19. The economic and social impacts of COVID-19 on people worldwide is simply incalculable, and with many countries being impacted by multiple waves, this impact will only increase.
One issue that impacted the WHO and other medical societies and organizations were the tools needed to track massive populations of infected patients. Without this ability, attempting to stop an epidemic of this nature was doomed to failure. Added to the question of tracking, however, is the requirement for the development of treatment plans. Medical teams need to have better diagnostic abilities as well as targeted vaccines available promptly.
Sadly, COVID-19 information about isolation and treatment options has been plagued by misinformation and conspiracy theories spread through the internet and social media platforms. Without a way of combating this misinformation, educating individuals is almost impossible. Governments have learned that the measures they thought sufficient in a crisis are woefully inadequate.
How Can Blockchain Technologies Help in the Pandemic Era?
Blockchain will not directly prevent the spread of COVID-19 or whatever the next virus might be. Instead, with its decentralized nature, Blockchain is the perfect tool for sharing information around the world. By using a public ledger that cannot be tampered with, Blockchain helps ensure medical professionals get the true story of the virus.
Tracking Infectious Disease Outbreaks
The pandemic has had individuals around the world trying to understand and use Blockchain in innovative and new ways to help. For instance, China has over 20 different blockchain applications that were launched in the early part of the year. These applications were built around providing a way of securely managing health records and sharing information about impacted regions.
Other countries have used Blockchain in different ways. Many countries are using contact tracing as a means of flattening the curve. However, contact tracing requires private information about an individual, which many people are unwilling to share. With blockchain technologies, some of these privacy concerns are addressed as the info remains confined.
Charities and governments are often put under a microscope to understand how the money they received was spent. However, due to this emergency’s nature and how governments around the world have rushed to react, those controls are often not in place. How and where the money is being spent is a concern that needs to be addressed.
Blockchain lets donors see where the money is critically needed, and with the tracking available through the technology, donors can receive verification that the correct recipient has received their funds. Blockchain drives transparency and ensures everyone knows how and where donated funds are being used.
Blockchain enables technologies like smart contracts that are already in use in the legal profession. Smart contracts are bits of code that are invoked if and when certain conditions are met, and their use helps lawyers save time, money, and effort. In a similar vein, the WHO and other similar organizations could use smart contracts to send out timely alerts to the public. This type of technology can also be used to share information between governments and healthcare professionals in near real-time, improving containment efforts.
Securing Medical Information and Supply Chains
Blockchain is extremely powerful in supply chain management with its ability to track and trace supplies. This capability can be further applied to medical supplies and information. With individual supply chains each having multiple parties, having a secure ledger that cannot be modified to verify accuracy is extremely useful.
Today more than ever, data is power. There is a risk of abuse, but without sharing information, solutions are impossible. Personal information, including health status, can be even more dangerous if placed in the wrong hands. Fortunately, the Blockchain can help address this discrepancy. This is, in fact, something NIX managed quite successfully in a recent project dealing with child medical records.
The NIX team was tasked with creating a process where only specific patient information could be shared between different parties. In our project, we had to accommodate the hospital, the patient, their parents, and the school. Using a hyperledger framework, the NIX team created multiple separate channels, so each group had access to the information they needed, but nothing else.
Automated Surveillance & Contactless Delivery
After the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China implemented a mass surveillance program for all of its citizens. The Chinese surveillance system has almost 170 million cameras around the country, and with sophisticated algorithms and tools in place, the government can track nearly every citizen in real-time.
China deployed staff in several cities that were armed with smart glasses that tied into the surveillance network. These glasses immediately identified individuals with an elevated temperature, and information was fed back to a central location so police could be dispatched.
From the point of view of retail, online is now the norm, and contactless delivery an essential requirement for services. Previously services like UPS, FedEx, and even the postal services required signatures for delivery, but that is now the exception. While this makes sense from an infection point of view, there is an increased risk of theft and damage, leading to a higher number of chargebacks on merchants.
Blockchain technology can use digital biometric data (similar to a fingerprint) to identify the recipient. This way, when the delivery driver is in proximity, a simple ping to a mobile device alerts the recipient of the delivery so they can prepare appropriately.
Online Education & Secure Certification
Blockchain is the perfect tool to fight disinformation. With individuals around the world spreading false truths online and through social media daily, people have a hard time finding out the real facts. With Blockchain, information can be validated by real experts, and only accurate information disseminated.
However, Blockchain can be used in other ways also. Many countries have moved education services online or have closed schools entirely. Many of these online systems are not well established, and teachers, parents, and students are all suffering. Blockchain can address many of the problems being experienced. These systems will improve information sharing between institutes. Also, through a blockchain system, students can own their credentials and certifications to share where they will.
Agriculture & Food Distribution
With lockdowns and other restrictions impacting significant swathes for many countries, the food supply chain has been dramatically affected. It is hard to truly gauge the impact of COVID-19 on the global economy and the global supply chain. Many areas of the world continue to experience panic buying as consumers rush to purchase items they feel necessary for survival.
Blockchain can drive significant improvements to the supply chain by building a much more resilient chain. A blockchain-powered chain with smart contracts can be used to create a trust-less environment. This can tie all stakeholders together anonymously.
Blockchain opens new horizons for businesses and individuals, even during this very interesting time of our lives. It can improve the quality of our life and even help us save money. It is a technology that all businesses need to consider if they want to stay current and relevant. However, you must find the right partner to help you with your blockchain project. It would be best to have a partner with experience with the technology and an understanding of how to use it to best benefit you.
On November 4th, NIX will make a presentation based on the long-standing experience in blockchain development for various industries. The presentation on the topic “How Business Can Benefit from Blockchain” on the track “Blockchain for Enterprise” will be held at 2:40 p.m. MST. NIX experts – Fintech Software Solutions Consultant, Roman Tyzhnenko, and Director of Strategy & Business Development, Michael Osborne, – will talk about how business can benefit from the Blockchain, focusing on current pandemic conditions.