How Blockchain Projects Are Helping In The Fight Against COVID-19 (And A List Of The Projects)

As nations across the globe are trying to contain the virus, the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare shortcomings in our health, science, government, and business organizations. With over 2.5 million infected and over 170,000 deaths, every continent except for Antarctica has been affected by the coronavirus and with numbers increasing, the crisis has frozen the lives of billions of people. The governmental stay-at-home orders along with the absence of a vaccine and solution have resulted in increased panic worldwide.

We have already seen the global economy plummeting and recession hitting our markets and jobs worse than ever, but hope still remains as medical practitioners, researchers, immunologists, technologists, and governments scramble to address these problems. Today, as we rethink our approach in anticipation of future events to try and find ways of mitigating coronavirus’s impact — Blockchain seems to pave a way to deal with the worldwide health crisis with its inherent features of transparency, immutability, authenticity, and durability. Blockchain thrives on interoperability, open-source technology and consortiums/alliances, something that current nations and states should learn from and work cooperatively on solving the corona pandemic.

Today institutions, funds, and government bodies are increasingly teaming up with professionals, scientists, and startups to come up with solutions to manage and even prevent the spread of the virus. For this, governments and organizations are investing billions for improving our technical and medical capabilities to fight the coronavirus outbreak. It is overwhelming how groups of blockchain projects are coming together to fight the battle against COVID-19 and bring back ‘normalcy’ to our world. In this article, we explore these initiatives and solutions being implemented to improve the situation using Blockchain.

Blockchain for Tracking Covid and Identifying Hotspots

At a time when data is most crucial to control the COVID-19 pandemic, Blockchain finds its role in addressing inconsistencies and identifying errors or misreporting. Over the years we have seen many privacy advocates fighting for the rights of individual privacy and pointing out how big organizations exploit the personal data of its users for their own benefit. Today, when we deal with a virus that spreads like wildfire, maintaining privacy in case of sharing information about communicable diseases, is of utmost importance With this is mind, we need to understand that Blockchain is an enabler technology that would ensure the enhanced security, improved traceability with its chronological data, greater transparency, and increased efficiency & speed needed for sharing critical information, like that of COVID-19 patients.

MiPasa blockchain consortium launched by the World Health Organization in collaboration with major blockchain and tech companies like IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, and Hacera intends to secure and integrate data sources, label their differences, improve and recognize errors or misreporting, to enable “early detection of COVID-19 carriers and infection hotspots. The aim of this collaboration is to facilitate “fully private information sharing between individuals, state authorities and health institutions,” and by using blockchain platforms like MiPasa not only ensures that we preserve privacy rather it improves it.

At Villanova University’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, a team led by professor Hasshi Sudler is focused on the development of a permissioned blockchain for doctors to trace positive COVID-19 cases. In South Africa, a team of academics at the University of Cape Town is developing a blockchain-powered application named ‘Covi-ID’ that will allow users to verify their own COVID-19 status. The aim of the application is to improve contact tracing of infected patients while giving users ownership over their data along with providing accurate information relating to COVID-19 infection hotspots to ecosystem participants.

Besides university researchers and government organizations collaborating, many private institutions like VitalHub Corp, a Canadian technology company have deployed a coronavirus screening tool that leverages blockchain to screen residents for common COVID-19 symptoms. Another Canadian tech company, Emerge, launched a COVID-19 tracking blockchain app called Civitas to assist local authorities. Similarly to this, Acoer also came up with a coronavirus tracker called the HashLog data visualization engine, which provides daily tracking and visualizations of the COVID-19 crisis. The tracker communicates in real-time with Hedera Hashgraph public blockchain and helps people know about the spread of the pandemic and other insights from the data. Telos Foundation collaborated with GenoBank to build Agerona mobile application on the Telos public blockchain for storing COVID-19 test data so that researchers can analyze aggregate data from the blockchain along with minimum geographic knowledge to track the development and outbreak of the disease accurately.

Verifying the Citizens with blockchain-powered ‘Immunity Passes’

As coronavirus continues to spread and cause fatalities, blockchain will not only help us accurately track its spread and recognize errors but also offers a trust-worthy solution for individuals to prove that they’ve recovered from the novel coronavirus and have tested positive for antibodies. Well, this is exactly what COVID-19 Credentials Initiative (CCI) is working on!

More than 60 organizations in the SSI space, such as Evernym, Streetcred, esatus, TNO, Georgetown University, among others are using the recently approved World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Verifiable Credentials standard to build ‘immunity passports’ for individuals that would be issued by health care institutions but controlled by the user and shared in a peer-to-peer manner. CCI aims to enable society to return to ‘normal’ in a controlled, measurable, and privacy-preserving way. In Europe, Chiliz has a similar plan of developing a blockchain-based solution to allow soccer fans to gradually return to the stadiums. They propose to do so by connecting the football fans “Socios Pass” with their government-issued “immunity pass.”

Researchers and Immunologists Need Blockchain to Find a Cure

Around the world, blockchain initiatives are attempting to buttress governmental stay-at-home orders in order to flatten the curve and find a vaccine. CoreWeave, the largest U.S. miner on the Ethereum blockchain, is redirecting the processing power of 6,000 specialized computer chips toward Stanford University’s Folding@home distributed computing project, which pools GPU power to search for a COVID-19 cure. The research connects thousands of computers from around the world to form a distributed supercomputer for developing pharmaceutical drugs for the coronavirus.

Not only Folding@home but almost all COVID-19 tracking projects aid researchers by providing information about the COVID-19 pandemic and the evolution of the virus. In Spain, two academic institutions — the Institute of Biomedical Research of Salamanca and the University of Salamanca — and the nonprofit Artificial Intelligent Research Institute have collaborated together to design a blockchain and AI-based app that predicts the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic. The project aims to support medical professionals and government officials about decisions they need to make regarding the pandemic, including social distancing and quarantine measures.

Other uses of Blockchain during these times?

The application of Blockchain doesn’t end with supporting researchers or tracking infected citizens or even issuing ‘immunity passes’, the technology has numerous other use cases to control the pandemic. In China, apart from several tracking applications, we have seen big names like Xiang Hu Bao using blockchain technology to process coronavirus claims, reduce paperwork, and eliminate the need for back-and-forth documents delivered to clinics during the outbreak. Another interesting project is Shanzong which is developed by Hyperchain in collaboration with China Xiong’an Group. This interesting application tracks what kind of donations are made, from money and masks to medical materials, how they will be allocated and delivered to areas of need. In Germany, Spherity is contributing to the COVID-19 fight with its application E-Rezept which enables doctors to issue electronic prescriptions with privacy. In order to issue an electronic prescription, E-Rezept uses smartphone wallets, cloud agent infrastructure, in combination with the Ethereum blockchain in order to match the know-your-customer (KYC) credentials of patients with records held by doctors/hospitals.

Blockchain led Solutions Could Offer More Resilient Innovations and Solutions

Today, world leaders are taking bold measures to contain the coronavirus but it is certain that the world won’t be the same place after the current global pandemic passes and we restart the global economy. In a time when almost every company and individual faces the opportunity to change and adapt or be left behind, it will be interesting to see how blockchain fosters this adaption of companies and individuals to the post-pandemic economy. While ensuring that we are preserving, or even improving privacy.

List of blockchain projects

Anyone can access and add projects to this list: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1c-jj1QGzv5sWgaZR1v9At93Ij2zxDh8wLqmAcbD1Wr4/edit#gid=1815172625

Article was written by Darpan Kumari

Tracking the growth of blockchain technology through data.