The Use Of Blockchain Technology In The Fight Against COVID-19
Blockchain technology is a distributed database that exists on multiple computers at the same time. The technology involves storing transaction records on an electronic ledger system, with each transaction timestamped and linked to each previous transaction record. The unique feature of blockchain technology other than leveraging distributed computing is that each previous transaction record is permanent - hence a blockchain system is a constantly growing list of permanent records. Once recorded, the data for any given transaction cannot be altered retroactively without altering all subsequent transactions (See Verdantix 2021 Tech Roadmap For EHS Technology).
More recently, blockchain technology has found robust applications outside cryptocurrency systems. For instance, two hospitals in Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick in the UK use Internet of Things (IoT) devices and hashgraph technology to track vaccines and chemotherapy drugs and to monitor fridges storing COVID-19 vaccines throughout their supply chain. Hashgraph is a distributed ledger technology that is an offshoot of blockchain technology (See Verdantix Strategic Focus: Critical Event Management For EHS And Risk Management). Similarly, in the fight against COVID-19, testing and vaccine passports can be a good idea to ensure safe travel and facilitate economic recovery. But this idea has found immense pushback due to privacy, security and human rights implications. Though blockchain technology may be new to the public health community, international organizations such as the UN see it as a means of addressing the privacy challenges that arise from issuing these health passports. A decentralized blockchain can store an individual's health record securely and privately. The blockchain's cryptographic features will only confirm if the individual has tested negative or has been vaccinated while keeping any other personal data confidential. An example of such a system is IBM's blockchain-powered Excelsior Pass currently piloted by New York.
Today, blockchain technology use-cases are becoming increasingly prevalent. Vaccine supply chain monitoring and secure digital health records are only a few applications of the technology. Outside EHS, automotive firms like BMW and Ford use the technology as 'birth certificates' to track secondhand vehicles' purchase and maintenance histories to combat used-car fraud. Russian oil firm Gazprom Neft's aviation subsidiary, Gazpromneft-Aero, completed a pilot of its blockchain-based refuelling project, Smart Fuel. The project leveraged blockchain-based smart contracts to automate and accelerate refuelling payment processing times. Firms are now beginning to recognize the power of this technology, and it is only a matter of time before blockchain becomes widespread.