Health and Healthcare Systems

This is how blockchain can help fight pandemics

A worker moves a ballot box containing personal protective equipment (PPE), ready for distribution to polling stations ahead of the February 14 regional election, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Barcelona, Spain February 4, 2021. REUTERS/Nacho Doce - RC2PLL9MMUSK

OriginTrail is using blockchain to help companies source certified personal protective equipment (PPE). Image: REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Victoria Masterson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • Blockchain is used to record information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change, cheat or hack.
  • It could be used to create a Trusted COVID-19 Essential Supplies Repository of safe and certified products.
  • OriginTrail – a data authentication platform for global supply chains – proposed the idea on UpLink, the World Economic Forum’s crowdsourcing platform for innovations.

Weaknesses in how medical equipment is procured have been exposed and exacerbated by COVID-19. When the pandemic took hold, demand for supplies such as personal protective equipment soared – along with the number of suppliers.

How can buyers of these products know they are sourcing safe and certified equipment from trusted companies? According to OriginTrail – a data sharing platform for global supply chains – blockchain is the answer.

The technology allows information to be recorded in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change, cheat or hack – and is increasingly being used to validate the authenticity of data.

Blockchain PPE healthcare COVID-19 coronavirus
OriginTrail is a data sharing platform that uses blockchain to validate data and allow users to access it securely. Image: OriginTrail

Buying with confidence

Working with BSI – the United Kingdom’s standards body – OriginTrail proposes developing a ‘Trusted COVID-19 Essential Supplies Repository.’

“By growing the decentralised Trusted COVID-19 Essential Supplies Repository, we seek to positively impact over 100,000 organisations (governments, hospitals, humanitarian organisations/NGOs) and over 100,000,000 people receiving treatment using reliable equipment,” OriginTrail says on UpLink, the World Economic Forum’s crowdsourcing platform for innovations.

Based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, OriginTrail started out developing traceability tools for the food industry in 2011 and has been using blockchain to ensure data integrity since 2016. BSI uses blockchain to verify the authenticity of claims and certifications and has been working with OriginTrail’s developers since 2019.

External datasets from BSI would be used in the COVID supplies repository to show the types of business standards and certifications that are issued and valid.

“This helps eliminate false claims and misleading medical equipment supplier profiles,” OriginTrail says.


Crowdsourcing to beat COVID

The company’s repository – known as a ‘Trusted Explorer for Medical Device Certificates’ (TEMEC) – is one of more than 100 solutions proposed in response to UpLink’s COVID Challenges 2020 initiative.

This called for “technologies, innovations and solutions that will help us increase our collective readiness to respond to future crises, prevent infection, and allow for early detection of COVID-related infections.”


What is the World Economic Forum doing to manage emerging risks from COVID-19?

UpLink was launched at Davos 2020 to crowdsource innovations to address the world’s most pressing challenges.

The platform hopes to accelerate the delivery of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include achieving good health and wellbeing for all, no poverty and zero hunger by 2030.

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Related topics:
Health and Healthcare SystemsEmerging TechnologiesFourth Industrial Revolution
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