Blockchain Vs Corona: How technology is helping in the fight against COVID-19.
Bitcoin, blockchain’s most famous application, was forged out of economic uncertainty. Those working to drive the technology forward over the proceeding years have done so through almost constant regulatory uncertainty, controversy, and asset volatility that would have brought lesser communities to their knees.
It is no surprise, therefore, that the battle-hardened blockchain community is coming to the fore in the fight against the Covid19 outbreak.
The race for a vaccine
One of the biggest challenges in developing a vaccine for any virus is crunching the huge amounts of data held by big pharma companies in order to find potential solutions. As reported by the Guardian, major AI companies are already contributing to this effort.
However, an even bigger obstacle is persuading ‘big pharma’ companies to release and share all of their data, so that resources can be pooled — potentially expediting the discovery of a viable vaccine.
Blockchain technology has already provided a solution to this problem. Last year, to aid in the search for urgently needed antibiotics, a group of 10 pharma companies including Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline agreed to pool their data to allow for AI-based searches.
As explained by the Guardian, “that historic agreement was made possible by the development of a secure, blockchain-based system that allows an algorithm to search rival companies’ data with full traceability — but without revealing commercial secrets to competitors. The advantage of using blockchain is that companies can trust the code rather than their partners”.
COVID-19 information highway
In a similarly data-driven vein, an enterprise Blockchain consortium including the likes of IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and the World Health Organization (WHO) has come together to launch a “COVID-19 information highway”.
As reported by Coindesk, the solution has been named MiPasa and will be an open-data hub that will check the veracity of data relating to the coronavirus pandemic. “MiPasa, built on Hyperledger Fabric, is expected to evolve as a range of data analytics tools are added, followed by testing data and other information to assist with the precise detection of COVID-19 infection hotspots”.
While some blockchain projects have been criticised for using the technology as nothing more than a marketing gimmick, IBM’s Blockchain CTO Gari Singh told Coindesk that its properties make blockchain technology vital to the project; “It’s not that we were trying to force blockchain into this solution, but we thought we need to replicate data, we need to have trusted sources, we need to make sure it can’t be tampered with.”
In the Netherlands, a group of companies have come together to form “Tech against Corona” — a group offering free support to the Dutch government, aid workers, care providers and hospitals.
The group includes TYMLEZ, a blockchain company that fintechnews.ch reports will model the medical goods ecosystem through a platform that matches supply & demand, with blockchain as the underlying technology.
In Blockchain we trust
Former Chief Software Architect at the Center for Disease Control in the Obama Administration, Jim Nasr, is using Hedera Hashgraph’s public distributed ledger technology to create a trusted source of Corona Virus information.
With the news media, health authorities, and even governments and presidents often presenting conflicting information on the virus, it can seem almost impossible to discern the truth about the current state of the outbreak.
In using blockchain technology to create a data visualization tool for COVID-19, Nasr hopes to provide real-time and trusted information when it is needed most. As explained by Forbes, “data from the CDC, World Health Organization, and clinicaltrials.gov is digested into the system and a reference file including the data and metadata is created that matches this information to the source. This file is confirmed by a blockchain or distributed ledger technology where a ‘timestamp’ of when the information was received and from what source is securely recorded and publicly available for others to review”.
While the seeds of Bitcoin’s creation were sewn in the economic crisis of 2008, it remains to be seen whether the digital currency will fulfil its potential as a ‘safe haven’ asset 12 years on. However, blockchain technology may finally be coming of age at a time when access to trusted information is needed more than ever.
About the Oxford Blockchain Foundation
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