This article was originally published at Linkedin
The Covid-19 pandemic has caught the entire world by surprise causing widespread destruction in the public health care apparatus including sickness and death, disruption of the economy and the global supply chain, and the everyday way of life of the common individual. No one would have imagined that hand sanitizers and masks would become an essential items to stock at home or carrying vast supplies of face masks and ventilators at hospitals. It also revealed that reliance on one single country as the intermediary and sole source for all the supply chain needs can bring entire companies to a standstill.
The disruption in supply chain has given rise to fraudulent enterprises dumping fake products into the market, price gouging of basic essential items and creating an artificial shortage of groceries, food and essential commodities. A bustling and vibrant economy like the United States has been brought to its knees in a span of a few weeks with soaring unemployment at over 6 million and a government bailout in trillions of dollars.
Not all is bad as the pandemic has had some positive side effects too. The air quality across the globe has improved. Beijing has seen clear blue skies after many years, residents of Jalandhar in India were given incredible views of the Himalayan Dhauladhar range not seen in many decades, the importance of sanitary habits and keeping the environment clean has been realized by many populations and the honking of vehicles has dimmed to give one the melody of chirping music.
I have been watching all the daily White House briefings, plenty of news, thousands of WhatsApp forwards, and reading many articles about the crisis. The focus of this blog is on what are the possible post-Covid-19 impacts and the role of technology, including how Chainyard is contributing. With every crisis, there is new opportunity as many have written. Ali.com, JD.com, Uber, Venmo, Netflix, Airbnb, Groupon have all been born during down turns.
In my opinion a few key technology areas that include Blockchain, AI/ML, Hybrid Mobile Apps and IoT will play a significant role in shaping the post pandemic decade. As the economy readies to reopen, we are already seeing some changes. For example, Emirates is requiring passengers to have blood tests as a requirement, while some governments are contemplating proof-of-immunization to go back to work or get entry into public facilities.
Let us briefly explore how technology is or will play a role in future.
Blockchain has gained prominence during the crisis.
The blockchain provides key capabilities such as
- Immutability of Transactions
- Smart Contracts that can execute business logic, generate alerts and notifications
- Trust and transparency through consensus protocols
- Cryptographic methods for identities and transaction verification
- Self-Sovereign Identity and the use of the verifiable credentials protocol
Several solutions that leverage self-sovereign digital identity, track and trace, and supply chain are already in development or existing solutions are being modified. Chainyard, IBM, Evernym, VitalHub, Emerge, Nym, Public Health Blockchain Consortium, Hyperchain, SpreadLoveNotCorona, Mediledger are few of the companies that are engaged in blockchain based solutions. These include anything from contact tracing, distribution of donations, securing individual privacy and traceability of pharmaceutical products in the supply chain. Self-sovereign identity will play a key role where individuals will be responsible for managing their identity and claims, and providing proofs to substantiate them.
Boost to Explainable AI and Machine Learning
AI is being used to sift through various past research on molecular compounds and their past behavior to identify potential cures. AI and chat-bots assist the public by answering questions about the Covid-19 testing and treatments, providing insights and making recommendations. They can be effectively utilized in tele-medicine, remote diagnostics, research on new cures and predicting future outbreaks and their mitigation.
AI has been successfully exploited to identify patterns in the spread and predict the impact of the Covid-19 virus by combining publicly available data, government and other private sources, social, hospital and GIS information. Many companies are offering dashboards and insights. Notable ones I have been following are Johns Hopkins, University of Virginia and SAS.
Claim-8, a company I got to know that has gone further by overlaying Covid-19 analytics including additional data generated by existing super-clusters of computation to develop indices and derivative products that generate human actionable outcomes to provide supply chain insights in addition to Covid-19 related dashboard information. MiPasa, an initiative kicked off by Hacera along with IBM and Oracle is aggregating data on a global scale from various sources to provide insights that enable a swift and more precise early detection of Covid-19 carriers and infection hot spots.
IoT and the role of sensors, cameras, personal wearables, and gadgets such as drones and robots
IoT devices can work in concert with Blockchain, AI and mobile technology to deliver a connected experience on a trust platform. I would not be surprised if the security scanners at airports such as magnetometers and x-rays are augmented to include healthcare sensors like digital infrared thermometers, or the enhanced fingerprint kiosks to additionally measure body temperature, conduct instant blood tests and perform contact analysis. Connected digital infrared thermometers combined with AI could provide visualizations about hot spots or emerging outbreaks and provide alerts to hospitals and patients. Ramco Systems has announced a solution that combines bio-metrics and temperature sensors. Sensors combining facial recognition, clock time and temperature are used to enable employee access to the workplace via the security doors.
Supply chain concerns have grown as countries struggle to source vital supplies
Theseus from Emerge and Claim-8 from NewBureau are both working on supply chain solutions that track, trace, and optimize the global movement of goods to prevent fraud and counterfeiting. They combine QR tags, RFID, and smart sensors to achieve complete and near-real time visibility into shipments from manufacturer to final destination. Smart contracts validate data from sensors on cargo as the freight moves to detect violations of geo-fence, altitude, tilt, light exposure, acceleration, force, temperature etc. and send notifications about the shipment.
Wearable technology such as those from Oura or CloudMinds are being tested to understand the individual’s health and connect them to healthcare providers and other services. Robots have been deployed to sanitize public spaces, prepare and deliver food and monitor social distancing.
Drones have been able to conduct aerial surveys, deliver food and medicines, sanitize large areas and gather information to support analytics. Kazakhstan is using Terra Drone drones to patrol the capital city during the Covid-19 lockdown. According to a number of sources, Draganfly is working with healthcare data services firms and researchers across to deploy drones in Australia and the US. The proposed “pandemic” drone would be able to fly over people and identify their temperature and respiratory conditions, helping to limit infections.
Identity solutions will become more prevalent
People carrying digital wallets on their mobile phones to store credentials such as immunization records and virus testing results will become a norm. Quantum Materials Corp (QMC) has a blockchain based QDX HealthID for transparency in disease testing and immunization from infectious diseases. Combining tags using nano-particles which emit different colors when illuminated by light, they authenticate the the individual, the test administrator and test kit, and the immunization record. Chainyard, ProCredEx from HashedHealth, Evernym and many others are testing similar credentialing solutions.
To summarize the post Covid-19 era …
If we were to categorize the areas of impact and what changes can be expected post pandemic era, it will probably look as below.
- Workforce Management – Working remote, workload-based labor deployment, assessing contact tracing during work, conferencing versus face-to-face meetings and requiring proof of immunity or temperature check before entering the workplace
- Public Health – Temperature checks, mandatory annual immunization, social distancing and contact tracking, proactive health screenings
- Consumer Behavior – Purchasing online, more cash at home, support local products, stocking of essential items such as masks, hand sanitizers, gloves etc., constant risk assessment, remote or distance education, use of conferencing tools even for socialization
- Mobile Apps – (Wireless, Wifi, NFC, Bluetooth) mashups combing traditional social networking apps with government and other public service apps to tackle future disasters at scale including pandemics, fires, hurricanes, cyclones
- Shifting of supply chain – reactive to pro-active, from off-shore to in-shore, out-source to in-source, shareholder value to employee value, use of robots in manufacturing and moving away from single source and risky countries
- Life Sciences – drug research development and in-shore manufacturing, leadership in innovation, pro-active research, local manufacture
- Climate Change – possible periodic lock-downs across the globe to reduce carbon emissions and nitrogen concentrations in the atmosphere, improve quality of health without the huge mega ideas
What is Chainyard’s contribution to address the crisis?
A specialized blockchain company, providing Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum based solutions to several Fortune 500 enterprises and our flagship solution “Trust Your Supplier” has already started transforming the way enterprises manage their procurement process. TYS is a joint venture between Chainyard and IBM.
In order to jump in and get involved with the Covid-19 crisis, the first thing we did was to help Miracle, a Volunteer Non-Profit Organization, extend a disaster management solution we had built earlier to have features that enable individuals to register for a Covid-19 test in the app at any of the registered centers within a certain radius to their location. The disaster management solution brought together volunteer organizations, volunteers, resource providers, distribution centers and donations together on a common platform to have efficient communication and distribution of services and goods. Obviously, there are so many families needing supplies such as soap, hand sanitizers, toilet paper etc. and with the lock-downs in place, it is indeed difficult to shop around.
In addition, we are testing another solution based on the Self Sovereign Identity and verifiable credentials protocol to issue or verify claims by individuals about their health. This can enable a number business and public facilities to allow individuals to work or enter public places. Users can simply present a QR Code of their claim that can be scanned by a Relying party to verify the claim and enable services.
Lastly, we are working on a solution that enables “Rapid Covid Response” along with our partners, leveraging our TYS technology that has been in production for quite some months now.