Covid-19 is taking lives, destroying families and decimating economic resources across the globe. According to latest CDC findings, the R0 (basic reproductive number predictive of the rate of transmission in non-herd immunity populations) for the novel coronavirus is 5.7. In comparison, the R0 of smallpox in early 20th century ranged between 3.5 and 6 - which makes Covid-19 a threat to human life and progress, the significance of which cannot be overstated.
As such, the need to prevent and track nascent infection clusters and employ most effective therapeutic protocols for coronavirus patients in real time has become the driving force behind creating EpiSentry.
What it does
EpiSentry is a blockchain-based tool that serves three primary purposes:
- To aid in the understanding of global disease spread.
- To crowdsource information about the efficacy of novel treatments.
- To incentivize self-quarantine behaviors in times of global pandemic.
EpiSentry accomplishes the first part of its mission through anonymous, crowdsourced submissions of health telemetry data, grouped by country, region, and zip / postal code, to provide a top-down view of the global state of health at any given time.
The second part of our mission is realized through allowing vetted medical professionals to augment basic crowdsourced symptom data with anonymized patients' diagnoses and treatment plans, to help study effects on their symptoms going forward.
The third part leverages the EPI Token , specially created for this project, to incentivize behaviors that help “flatten the curve” of global disease spread, such as self-quarantine. Through tracking of users’ location data, users staying put for a certain consecutive number of days will begin accumulating rewards, which can then be redeemed via a participating network of businesses, government partners, and others generously donating products and services in exchange for EPI Tokens.
Finally, we aim to reduce the fear, uncertainty, and doubt caused by medical misinformation found online and on social media, through access to trusted sources of medical best practices and news. EpiSentry relies on a global community of users, physicians, care providers, and nonprofits - as well as on cutting-edge blockchain technology, powered by Knish.IO , to ensure that all anonymous reports remain available forever, and are not manipulated by anyone.
How I built it
EpiSentry is being actively developed using Knish.IO ledger, which is a proprietary DLT platform developed by WishKnish and has multi-purpose multi-stakeholder high-impact systems across the globe.
The front end is developed using the Quasar Framework for VueJS, and communicates with the Knish.IO ledger via GraphQL. Each anonymous symptom report is stored on the ledger, and will be eventually analyzed by nodes based on predetermined rules and thresholds, and automated actions (such as pandemic reports) will be issued based on these analyses. Mobile versions of EpiSentry (Android / iOS) are produced via Ionic Capacitor.
Challenges I ran into
Because EpiSentry is built on top of the Knish.IO blockchain platform, we ended up pushing the ledger to its limits in terms of querying functionality, requiring expansion of the feature set on the backend. This included querying of aggregate totals, as well as grouping of returned data by unique meta fields. As a result, both EpiSentry and the Knish.IO ledger are more robust as a result.
What I Learned
Privacy and data security are a universal concern when putting a project like EpiSentry together. Because of the sensitive nature of data submitted, and stored on the Knish.IO ledger across multiple nodes, potentially in multiple countries and legal jurisdictions, special attention must be paid to user privacy and the ethics of having health data stored on a distributed ledger system.
- The first line of defense comes from clearly-worded, opt-in consent and explanation of how data is collected, used, and protected.
- Next, the structure of the data collection itself is geared towards full anonymity of the data set, to avoid it falling under personal data regulations. EpiSentry reports store users’ approximate location based on zip / postal code, their approximate age range, and their gender. This ensures that their symptom data cannot be de-anonymized.
- Finally, the EpiSentry master node - the first server which users interact with - is specially configured to avoid logging of IP addresses for incoming reports, removing another possible route to de-anonymization. Subsequent communication with other nodes does notinclude the user’s original IP address at all. When data is anonymized to the appropriate extent, maintaining it on a distributed ledger, and fulfilling the needs of researchers, government entities, and the general public becomes much simpler.
- As an additional measure, Knish.IO nodes responsible for handling EpiSentry data can be optionally configured in a closed-off “clique” - effectively taking on the properties of a private, permissioned ledger infrastructure, which can be managed by trusted data controllers, increasing the amount of private data that may be potentially stored on the closed-off system.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
WishKnish is the first blockchain company to have been selected by the UK Government’s Department of Trade as part of the prestigious Global Entrepreneur Programme. This unique opportunity exposes the company to a number of global opportunities where Knish.IO technology can offer a wide range of efficiencies, and aids in enhancing the brand's global presence.
WishKnish is a member of the Silicon Valley Blockchain Society, and has been invited to join the World Economic Forum .
WishKnish CEO, Lisa Gus, is an Investment and Startup Lead at Government Blockchain Association , a global non-profit to educate and empower world governments on usage of blockchain, and Trustee for the Committee for Economic Development (CED) of The Conference Board, and part of its Women in Leadership Committee, Committee on Technology & Innovation, and Ad-Hoc Subcommittee of Covid-19 response
What's next for EpiSentry
EpiSentry is not built strictly for COVID-19. Other diseases, epidemics, and even pandemics may be coming in the future, and we want to be there to connect the global medical community, independent research, and government organizations for the purpose of enabling a more resilient problem-solving infrastructure.
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