Published April 27, 2020 | Updated April 27, 2020
Because blockchain technologies are uniquely suited to verifying, securing and sharing data, they’re ideal for managing multi-party, inter-organizational, and cross-border transactions. Over the past five years, enterprises across the globe have vetted the technology with thousands of proofs of concept, but live deployments have been slow to come because partners using blockchain as a shared ledger have to agree on IP rights, governance, and business models. Government regulations have also impeded its widespread use.
It has taken the Covid-19 pandemic to push through the obstacles to blockchain adoption. The virus has revealed the weaknesses in our supply chains, our inability to deploy resources where they are most needed to address the pandemic, and difficulties in capturing and sharing the data needed to make rapid decisions in managing it. Blockchain solutions that have been under development for years have been repurposed and unleashed to address these challenges.
Consider the work of Colonel James Allen Regenor, USAF (ret). Since 2013, he’s been building a blockchain-powered platform for buying and selling traceable 3-D printed parts and printing instructions for them as well as traditionally manufactured parts that are scanned and assigned unique tracking identifiers. He first led the project at Moog, which designs and manufactures advanced motion controls for aerospace and medical uses, and then he founded VeriTX in 2019 to bring the platform to market. Regenor built the platform to enable a decentralized manufacturing process in which customers can order and print parts, for example for medical devices, for use where and when they need them. The blockchain ensures tamper-proof design and printing instructions.
When Regenor realized that his platform could help with the medical devices needed to battle Covid-19, he leapt into action. He founded a new company, Rapid Medical Parts, in March 2020. He rallied a global network of partners, and in just 12 days the Pentagon awarded his company a contract for converting the abundant supply of sleep apnea machines into ventilators. The conversion requires additional parts that Rapid Medical Parts will print, and at a tenth of the cost of a new ventilator. The units should be in hospitals by mid-May.
It’s not just the nimble startups that are leveraging blockchain solutions to fight the virus. Organizations including the World Health Organization, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, and other tech companies, government agencies, and international health organizations are partnering in building the blockchain-based open data hub called MiPasa. The platform, created by the enterprise blockchain firm HACERA, aims to quickly and precisely detect Covid-19 carriers and infection hotspots around the world. MiPasa will securely share information among individuals, hospitals, and authorities that will aid in public health analysis.