The properties of blockchain, like immutability and being a distributed network, makes it an attractive underlying platform for future innovations. It might be too early to say, but blockchain might prove to be a technology as disrupting as the internet was.
The recent spread of COVID-19 has shaken the world. Researchers are keen to use blockchain technology to fight the challenges related to medical science, supply chain, and dealing with user data. There is a need for a trusted platform to help with these daunting challenges.
Supply chains have been significantly disrupted during the crisis. COVID highlighted issues in the world trade mechanism that nobody could have foreseen. In the past few months, there was no gateway to track the supplies, such as medical kits or even online orders. The general lack of global connectivity became a hindrance to fast and efficient sourcing of goods across the border.
When it comes to supply and demand, the main issue is tracking the product as it passes through various geographical regions. The current system is complex, inefficient, and not transparent. Blockchain could completely transform the system and help dealing with scenarios similar to the current pandemic situation.
Blockchain is completely connected and transparent. There is no central authority and its system of incentives increases the efficiency of the overall process. For example, the food market already use blockchain to ensure that supplies arrive on time. Big giants like IBM and SAP use blockchain to simplify and accelerate supplier qualification and to take new suppliers on board. There is no need for trust between supplier and business when blockchain is used.
The outdated medical surveillance system failed to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In some places, there was no such system. If there was, it was outdated. An aggressive approach was needed to share the data globally in order to contain the virus, but no such system existed, and the required prevention measures were taken too late in some countries.
Eventually, blockchain took over and big firms like Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, and Hacera started entering into the field. The World Health Organization joined hands to come up with a data hub and sharing platform. The main goal of the platform is to diagnose people with Covid-19 quickly and efficiently.
Besides this, various apps are designed to track the spread of the virus and see if the people around you are infected or not. MYNXG has developed an app that uses NFC (Near Field Communications) technology and alerts people if there is an infected person in their contact list. The app makes sure that user data is secure. Acoer is also working on tools to track the spread of the virus.
When it comes to healthcare, efficient data sharing on behalf of hospitals and healthcare centers play a vital role. Unfortunately, there is no such system that exists. National Healthcare systems only realized the importance of such a system after the virus outbreak. Blockchain technology enables the user to keep their data secure and maintain control over it. Data leaks could cause severe issues if not appropriately handled. Features like decentralization, i.e. there is no single source of data, make it difficult for single individuals to temper or leak data.
When it comes to reliability and security of user data, the blockchain could help in the following ways in the current pandemic.
- Health Services could develop smart contracts to regulate the relationship between patient and medical professional. The contract could contain information like who has access to data, thus improving efficiency with faster diagnoses. For example, we could gather data from patients who recovered from the virus and share the data for research purposes.
- As information on blockchain is temper proof, data will remain safe. No-one could steal them, or use them for illicit activity.
The virus spreads via physical cash payments. The World Health Organization is encouraging and advising the use of digital currencies. The cashless payments could be in the form of online card transactions or cryptocurrencies.
Governments who are keen to develop their digital cash systems using digital currencies have started to think about blockchain technology. In the current pandemic, people are making digital transactions more than usual, and over time we might see it becomes a norm to use them frequently instead of cash payments.
Another issue that came as a result of the ongoing crisis is related to the insurance sector. Insurance companies needed a fast and efficient solution for faster insurance payouts. Such major insurance companies like Blue Cross are using blockchain to reduce the lengthy paperwork and use blockchain to manage multiple transactions at a given time.
Apps based on smart contracts make it easier for customers to receive payments and settle disputes. The current economic conditions are affecting almost everyone around the world. When millions or billions of users want to claim insurance, the blockchain could prove to be the solution.
The current COVID 19 crisis has shown the world that crisis could take place at any time and place. There is no warning, and the containment of these kinds of crisis is not easy to do.
When it comes to the question of the role of blockchain, it cannot stop the crisis, but it has the potential to become the first line of defense for the pandemics. It could predict the time and location of outbreaks based on the data and fast-tracking solution.
It will take time and research to make blockchain efficient enough to become a global defense management platform, but we are on the right track already!