This week, renowned blockchain developer Lucas Cullen began work on stage one of Frankl’s first dapp.
Frankl is building a dementia assessment dapp (a decentralised or blockchain-integrated app) that aims to achieve earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. The test itself was designed by Professor Greg Savage, a clinical neuropsychologist from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders. The team transforming the test into an open science dapp include ‘Hut34’ blockchain guru Peter Godbolt, designer and developer Kyle Hengst, cognitive scientist Dr Jon Brock and Lucas Cullen, who sits on the board of Blockchain Australia.
An open source ‘encryption microservice’
Cullen is building a Node.js microservice that will handle the encryption and decryption of any data provided to it. This service forms part of a toolkit being developed by Hut34 to enable data transactions on the Ethereum blockchain, and as such offers the ability to securely manage all Frankl research data.
Access to secure encryption via easy-to-use tools is a key aim of this microservice. Data collected by Frankl apps will be able to be encrypted, and subsequently decrypted using an individual user’s credentials only, with no-one else able to gain access at any time. The same approach can also be used to share the data with another authorised person such as a patient, family member, clinician or researcher. Savage and Brock will be testing these data sharing functions as part of the dementia dapp trials.
The encryption microservice will be released as open source to allow anyone to build on it and to encourage community input into the emerging data management protocols.
“We haven’t written the rule book” says Godbolt. “We’re going to make some sensible suggestions and we’re going to build a community around solving these problems — what data should be encrypted using what techniques and where should it be stored using what techniques.”
Dapp users’ private keys will be protected by Google security
To ensure the security of encrypted data, Frankl have also adopted a wallet technology that protects every dapp user’s private key via their Google account – a feature that takes full advantage of Google’s own security framework. The Frankl wallet is currently in beta phase thanks to the innovative work of Hut34.
“The Frankl wallet allows clinicians, researchers and even patients to really easily manage a secure Ethereum address such that they — and only they — have access to their private keys,” says Godbolt. “That’s something that the blockchain space understands well and it’s highly related to personal and private data.
“If you can manage your store of value in Frankl or Ether (or Bitcoin) without allowing anyone else to access it then you should also be able to store your personal and private data in the same way. And that applies on a patient level, a researcher level, a research team level.”
Open science to be powered by a blend of blockchain and enterprise
In January, Kyle Hengst will lead the development of the dapp itself, which will be built in React Native, run on both iOS and android devices and employ a blend of both blockchain and enterprise technology. The design of the dapp includes automatic and customisable data storage functions that will, where appropriate, make public data generated by the dapp available in open science repositories. The dapp will take advantage of services such as Infura for scalability, and IPFS and Swarm for distributed data storage.
The development of the Frankl dementia dapp is funded by the Wellcome Trust as part of their Open Research Fund.
As Godbolt says, “It’s a real use case for real researchers to do real science and to gather and share their data in a highly secure way, powered by blockchain technology.”
Frankl’s first dapp is expected to be trialled at Macquarie University in February–March 2019.