Mo Bing: How to Use Blockchain Technology for Better Epidemic Prevention and Full Traceability of Epidemic Information

(Editor’s note: abridged and modified, see the original article How to Use Blockchain Technology During the Epidemic? | Milin Finance Anti-Epidemic Issue 01)

Milin Finance is a video media focused on blockchain. It is dedicated to providing interesting and valuable blockchain news, in-depth perspectives and technical knowledge.

Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Red Cross Society of China Wuhan Branch has been under tremendous pressure from the public after the so-called Vegetable Gate, Resell Gate and Putian Gate. The media reported that the society had donated a lot of supplies to the Red Cross Society, however many hospitals in Wuhan still called for public help as they lack supplies.

Milin Finance invited Mr. Huang Tianwei, Executive Vice Chairman of Shenzhen Information Service Blockchain Association and Founder of btc38.com / AEX.com, and Mr. Mo Bing, Executive Vice Chairman of Shenzhen Blockchain Industry Alliance and Associate Professor of Nanjing University of Science and Technology to discuss how to use blockchain technology for epidemic prevention.

1. How Blockchain Technology Applies to the Red Cross Society?

Tan Lin (Milin Finance): It can be said that the epidemic pushed the Red Cross Society to the forefront. The Vegetable Gate, Resell Gate and Putian Gate all come from non-transparent information and a lack of consensus on decision making in the Red Cross Society. Can blockchain technology be applied to the Red Cross Society system to solve the current problem of non-transparent, non-public and inaccurate data?

Huang Tianwei: Recently, this has been a hot topic in the blockchain industry. Some scandals of the Red Cross Society have been exposed by the media.

What is the main cause of these problems? Wasn’t it aware of the severity of the epidemic? Is it understaffed? Is it because the Red Cross Society did not take it seriously? Actually, no.

In fact, this is related to human nature. In a system without supervision, transparency, disclosure and mutual authentication, whether it is the Red Cross Society or other organizations, the same problems will occur.

The distribution of supplies by the Red Cross Society currently includes donation, warehousing and distribution. None of these is transparent.

If the whole system of public welfare is running on blockchain, then all the donation processes and all the data will be recorded to blockchain. The donor will initiate an application and when the Red Cross Society receives the donation, it is equivalent to a block confirmation on blockchain.

Then it is extremely difficult to falsify the donation process. The higher-level authorities, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations and all citizens or donors can see the information.

All the records on blockchain are public and immutable. In fact, the same applies to the warehousing and redistribution processes. The system can truly bring public welfare to the front. It is much better than endorsement by an individual or any organization because the public is watching.

The evil of human nature cannot be removed by only one technology. Even if we use blockchain for donation, there is still some room for collusive evil, but it will be much more difficult than it is now.

So we must look at it objectively. Blockchain can improve and optimize the structure of the current social charity. But there is still room for evil, so the structure needs to be reconsidered from both sides and the mechanism must be continuously improved.

Mo Bing: Blockchain is inherently decentralized, distributed and immutable.

Technology has never been a barrier for solutions, while procedures and management systems are.

Let me give you some ideas on the technical level. For example, the donation process basically cannot be faked. For the warehousing and distribution processes, if effective sensors and cameras are installed to monitor data and record it on blockchain, with the current logistics system, substitution of one thing for another can be eliminated.

If the local Red Cross Society and the hospital didn’t actually distribute the supplies, but we saw the supplies were distributed and received on blockchain, how to stop this kind of fraud?

For example, the local Red Cross Society and the hospital receiving the supplies can record data in their respective alliance blockchains. In the distribution process, the Red Cross Society acts as a distribution node and the hospital as a reception node.

These two nodes are separate blockchains: The Red Cross Society alliance chain and the hospital system alliance chain. In the process of handover, the information on supplies distribution is reported to the Red Cross Society system and the hospital will also report it to the higher authority after receiving the supplies. These two alliance chains can extract feature values ​​or data fingerprints and store them on a public or alliance chain.

Although there are barriers between alliance chains because they follow their own procedures, we can verify whether a data package has been modified, including the distribution data.

Once data is generated on blockchain, there is no way to change it. For example, if there is a problem and both parties want to modify the data together on both ends, it is impossible for them.

According to this structure and mechanism, I think alliance chains can be nested together in the application layer. Each one is responsible for its own data in the form of data fingerprints. Together with the higher-level authorities, they all ensure that all data is private, secure and not modified.

2. Solving Supplies Distribution by Blockchain Traceability Systems

Tan Lin: Thanks Mr. Mo for the wonderful answer. For this epidemic, blockchain companies have generously donated money and actively organized donation activities. It seemed as if netizens have bought all masks from around the world, but hospitals still expressed that they lack masks! Where did the masks go? I know that Mr. Mo is an expert in the field of chip and anti-counterfeiting traceability. So I would like to ask Mr. Mo one question: Can the problem of unreasonable matching of supplies be solved by blockchain traceability systems and smart contracts?

Mo Bing: Smart contracts and blockchain are not enough. We should also use big data and AI. But not all these complex measures are necessary for some situations.

I will mainly talk about traceability systems and smart contracts.

Suppose that Leishenshan Hospital lacks 1,000 masks. They can issue a smart contract on blockchain with a detailed description of their demand and set up an incentive mechanism, such as issue of medal-like tokens to increase the donation enthusiasm.

Leishenshan Hospital under construction

After Leishenshan Hospital receives the express delivery, it can scan the code to compare the logistics information, and open the package for a check. If it finds that the requirement of 1,000 masks is met, the scanning system will issue an instruction saying that the met requirement is exactly the one on the smart contract.

Then the medal token will be automatically transferred to an address, so that a contract-like supply and demand settlement at the smart contract level is completed.

And this information can be found on the smart contract. For example, the signature is indeed to make sure no one impersonates the hospital. In addition, the signature can carry GPS positioning, warehouse information, time stamp and other information.

Some other hospitals without feverish patients like Putian may also have demand, but they may be prioritized as secondary. In this way, the problem of centralized decision-making errors is eliminated in an open manner.

Huang Tianwei: There is an organization in our country called All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Cooperatives. It has a subsidiary called China Supply and Marketing Agricultural Production Wholesale Market Holding Co., Ltd. (CAWM). CAWM controls all the central agricultural production wholesale markets in more than 2,800 counties in China.

In 2017, they began to explore the establishment of a blockchain-based supply chain management system for agricultural products. For example, when purchasing agricultural products, you can see the whole process from first-tier and second-tier dealers to the agricultural market. When you scan the QR code on the package, you can record the goods and trade information on blockchain.

The system might have started trial operation in two places in Shaanxi province from 2017 to the first half of 2019. It mainly achieves the following purposes:

First, it must be very clear about all the agricultural markets in the whole country and big data on commodity trade. For example, South China lacks pork, East China has a lot of pork, soybean price is rising in South China, and North China lacks some vegetables. This kind of big data is required to analyze and regulate the supply of agricultural products in the whole country.

Second, we can better trace the agricultural trade ecology of our country through this system. For example, it’s very clear which products sell slowly and which sell well.

The system also provides more supply chain finance possibilities. For example, when a subordinate takes supplies from a superior, it can pay by IOU and then trade futures.

Similarly, besides agricultural products, medical products can also be controlled in this way, and it is even more necessary to adopt this method.

If a blockchain system is used to trace the whole process of each batch of masks and each package of masks from factory, warehousing, logistics and distribution to the secondary storage, tertiary storage and hospital, then it will be easy to find masks.

3. The Role of Blockchain Technology in Epidemic Reporting and Traceability

Tan Lin: It is known that the epidemic was caused by a bat in the South China Seafood Market in Wuhan (Editor’s note: Researchers are unsure of the original source of viral transmission to humans. An announcement from the South China Agricultural University in Guangzhou, China, suggests that pangolins and not bats may have been a source of the COVID-19 outbreak). Human-to-human transmission has started through contact transmission, which has caused tens of thousands of patients at present. Mr. Zhong Nanshan, the academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), also said that timely virus detection, cut-off of transmission channels and avoidance of emergence of a super spreader can effectively suppress the epidemic. But actually, some people are unwilling to report their own actual epidemic situation and whereabouts due to privacy and psychological reasons. Blockchain technology not only is confidential and can store traceability data. Will blockchain technology be effectively applied in the field of epidemic reporting and traceability? How will it be applied?

Mo Bing: When large-scale spreading occurs, blockchain technology can be adopted to confirm the channel of information release and dissemination and thus determine the responsibility.

For example, any patient who comes to the designated hospital can be recorded. The hospital can give the patient a small tracking device and bind the identity information.

Then blockchain technology can be used to bind the final information to an ID card. A valid period can be set on blockchain, say 20 days. When the 20-day period is expired or the disease is cured, the information will no longer be recorded. This can protect the privacy and also ensure the effective supervision of patients.

However, it is difficult to at the moment due to the insufficient infrastructure.

4. What Are Other Uses of Blockchain?

Tan Lin: On February 2, Nanjing Audit University officially launched the Epidemic Prevention and Control Blockchain System. Nansha District Epidemic Prevention and Control Collaboration System (Guangzhou) was also launched simultaneously. They adopt blockchain and other information technologies to integrate key personnel, latest epidemic data and supplies distribution etc. so as to improve the efficiency of epidemic investigation. When an epidemic breaks out, where else can blockchain technology be used?

Huang Tianwei: I want to focus on goods anti-counterfeiting. There are many fake masks on the market. When there is no epidemic, we can also see many fake vaccines, medicines, alcohol, cigarettes etc.

What are the anti-counterfeiting measures taken previously? A code is hidden under a scratch-off field on a product. After you scratch the field, there is a verification code or QR code.

When you scan the QR code with your mobile phone, a page will show you whether the product is genuine or not. Or there is a website address, you visit it and enter the verification code to check the product.

But this method has poor efficiency: you might have visited a fake website and seen a fake page, still it tells you the product is genuine.

Today we will talk about anti-counterfeiting by blockchain.

JD.com tests different blockchain anti-counterfeiting technologies for some products, but the technology has not yet been fully adopted; only a small number of products are covered.

For example, when we buy an LV bag at JD.com, there’s a small steel ring on the bag with a QR code on it. When you scan the QR code, the scan record is uploaded to the JD blockchain and you see all the people who scanned the QR code before you.

Normally, there should be 4 scans, including the factory, the warehouse, the logistics and yourself.

In this way, we can clearly know whether the manufacturer had the LV bag in stock. If the number of LV bags of the manufacturer has not changed, then the bag is fake.

JD Blockchain Anti-Counterfeiting System (used: JD.com)

Blockchain can be used in agricultural products, automobiles, furniture and timber for traceability and big data analysis.

Whether it is medicines or medical equipment, I am very optimistic about the application of blockchain technology. For example, blockchain can actually play an important role in controlling epidemic transmission with the help of big data on medical products and population flow.

Mo Bing: In fact, Mr. Huang has mentioned almost all the applications of blockchain in various industries. Mainly, they are supply chain and anti-counterfeiting traceability.

I also think that blockchain may become a very important underlying technical means for our country within the next five years.

This is an era of information explosion and information exchange. Blockchain may add value to information, especially the real information; it will have very high value. I think blockchain may help us classify useful information in the future.

Here are two more examples.

The first example is the vaccine incident in Changsheng Biotechnology last year. We have carefully analyzed it from the technical level and it could have been avoided.

Vaccine activity was the highest between minus five and five degrees. In the process of transportation, the logistics company may have not set the required temperature to save costs, which decreased the effectiveness of the vaccines when they arrived at the hospital.

Therefore, the vaccine may be real but not active because some problems occurred in the entire supply chain process.

No one knows which logistics company is the supplier of Changsheng Biotechnology. All the media were focusing on Changsheng Biotechnology itself. It may also have some problems, but it is hard to say.

If the core data, such as temperature and humidity data collected by sensors, is recorded on blockchain together with GPS in the process of cold chain logistics, human interference can be avoided.

If data nodes of the blockchain, including the manufacturer, such as Changsheng Biotechnology, and the logistics companies, the hospital and the supervision department of the government also have this data, then the problem can be avoided from the source.

The second example is wild animals.

I know that breeding of wild animals must be licensed and subject to inspection and quarantine. So if there is a problem, the wild animals may have not been inspected and quarantined.

If we can extract data of each wild animal after inspection and quarantine, and bind it with a chip, when the consumer or hotel buys it, they can use a code scanner to match their demands. Of course, this is just an administrative method; I think it can eliminate such problems well.

To be honest, technology cannot completely change society, human mentality is more important.

5. What Force Majeure Factors Will Blockchain Technology Encounter During Implementation?

Mo Bing: It is mainly administrative factors on the information layer. Blockchain is open, fair, transparent and immutable.

But people still think: why should we share data with you? This is a relatively large barrier.

Take anti-counterfeiting and traceability in Moutai for example. There are five anti-counterfeiting traceability systems for the Old Moutai liquor.

In fact, Moutai does not need so many procedures at all. One chip and blockchain can cover it. It is said that opinion of the management is a strong factor.

Therefore, blockchain has no technical problems but administrative barriers.

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