Retail giant Walmart is amping up efforts to harness the power of blockchain record-keeping in pharmaceutical tracking, while also hedging its bets as to the specific technology it’s committing to.
The big-box retail giant said Thursday it will participate in a drug-verification pilot with IBM, KPMG and drugmaker Merck. This is the second such pilot involving Walmart to be announced in as many weeks, and it adds yet another flavor of distributed ledger technology (DLT) to the drug-tracking use case.
Just last week, CoinDesk reported that Walmart was participating in the MediLedger consortium whose members already include pharmaceutical manufacturers such as Pfizer and the three largest pharmaceutical wholesalers, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health.
But whereas MediLedger builds upon a private version of ethereum called Parity, the IBM/Walmart project will use Hyperledger Fabric – a sign that Walmart isn’t yet committed to any single platform.
Big retailers broadly are clearly getting more comfortable with blockchain technology and exploring multiple options. Earlier this week, it emerged that Target is participating in a Hyperledger supply chain tracking project called Grid, while also pursuing its own blockchain project called ConsenSource.
Walmart was already one of the most prominent companies in the world to adopt distributed ledger technology (DLT), as a participant in IBM’s Food Trust. That system is now out of testing and is used in the wild to track the movement of fruits and vegetables from the farm to the grocery aisle.
But the Bentonville behemoth is still early in its explorations of the pharmaceutical use case.
“We are learning, which is the point of these pilots, but our ultimate goal through both is to create a safer, more transparent supply chain for our customers,” said Walmart spokeswoman Marilee McInnis.
Spurred by FDA
These pharmaceutical DLTs are coming to light at this moment in time because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now completing its approval of platforms for inclusion in a government-mandated pilot program.
The Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) requires firms to be able to identify, track and trace prescription medicines and vaccines distributed within the U.S., down to a fairly granular level on the packaging of these products.
The new drug pilot will build on the work Big Blue has already done with Walmart, said Mark Treshock, IBM’s blockchain solutions Leader for healthcare and life sciences.
“The project with KPMG Merck and Walmart, even though it’s a pilot, is going to be leveraging the production blockchain platforms that we have developed for Walmart with FoodTrust and also with Maersk in TradeLens,” he said, adding:
“So, it’s not just a science experiment.”
While he clarified food and drugs would not co-exist on the same blockchain, Treshock said FoodTrust relies on the same sort of data standards such as GS1, as is commonly used in life sciences.
On the subject of Walmart participating in a Hyperledger pilot with IBM and at the same time working with Mediledger’s ethereum-based blockchain, Eric Garvin, co-lead at MediLedger, said it was not surprising since Walmart and IBM collaborate on FoodTrust.
“Many pharma companies are participating in multiple pilots,” he said. “The strength of the MediLedger pilot is that it includes a diverse mix of industry companies (all segments of the supply chain, large companies, small companies, brand manufacturers, generics) and has the greatest support with at least 20 companies involved.”
The FDA’s mandate for drug tracking lists “interoperability” as a key requirement and putative benefit of digitalizing the supply chain, raising the question of whether competing enterprise blockchain protocols can be made to communicate with each other – or if businesses will eventually have to consolidate platforms.
IBM’s Treshock took a philosophical view on this, telling CoinDesk:
“We feel it’s less about the technology, whether Hyperledger or ethereum – although that is certainly important – and more about interoperability at the business model level, by that I mean coming together and creating open networks.”source:coindesk.
WATCH: A FinTech Lawyer Breaks Down Libra’s Legality
Joel Telpner, Chair of Fintech and Blockchain Practice Group at Sullivan & Worcester LLP, isn’t surprised that Facebook is getting a grilling on Capitol Hill. In fact, he’s pleased.
“These are attacks on Facebook itself that really has nothing to do with crypto has nothing to with Libra it’s just Facebook being bad boys you know [they’re] concerned about [their] privacy policies,” he said.
His point, quite simply, is that any scrutiny of crypto in DC is vital.
“Parts of the hearing so far where they’ve actually been able to get into conversations about Libra and about crypto have been interesting because on that side of it you’ve seen some Senators that have been skeptical,” he said. “But overall it’s kind of it’s been encouraging to hear some of the senators talking about ‘Hey, this is a good thing.’”
Telpner joined CoinDesk editor Pete Rizzo in a wide-ranging conversation about the legality of Libra and, in the end, what Facebook and the Government will have to do to come to terms with the future of crypto.
You can read our complete Libra coverage here and watch our CoinDesk LIVE interviews here.
Freedom over Facebook: How the social media giant could wield the most powerful censorship tool in history
Blockchain has been the buzzword in the tech industry for the past few years since Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have surpassed other assets in terms of value. Bitcoin seems to satisfy one use case and sticks to it while other projects have forked, built and innovated on Bitcoin’s core promise of a decentralized, trust-less environment of immutable transactions. Notably, Ethereum opened up a world of decentralized applications or DApps that are being customized, designed and implemented to suit various use cases in different industries.
These distributed apps have one thing in common, they enable industry collaboration through transparency and security. One of the sectors that have been the focus of tech startups for a long time is the healthcare sector. Not only is it a critical sector but it also involves numerous stakeholders and actors coming together for the well-being of patients. Hospitals, different doctors, specialists, healthcare professionals, insurance companies, medical record maintainers, pathology labs and numerous other specialized service providers need to work in tandem for a seamless experience for a patient.
This creates a challenge for every service provider since they need to deal with data at a micro level but still need to have an overview of patient’s data that may be stored with some other entity. For example, an insurance provider will provide one specific service but they might need data about the patient’s health from the pathology lab, an opinion from the patient’s doctor, their expense report from the hospital, etc.
This data is usually hosted either on paper or on an individual business server. The industry has strict rules about privacy and the sharing of this data. The information held by these professionals is absolutely personal to the patient and hence utmost care is required to protect it.
The HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] provides strict guidelines about managing and protection of this information.
This creates difficulties and bureaucratic procedures for the transfer of patient’s data and has given rise to a host of tech startups aiming to create a repository of centralized Electronic Medical Records [EMR] data. What EMRs would do is store all the information related to a patient’s healthcare in one place and provide specific access to different stakeholders as and when authorized by the patient.
But this creates a challenge in itself because the patient should be able to trust this one entity with all their data. It creates a single point of weakness that can be exploited, thereby rendering all the information vulnerable to attack.
With the advent of blockchain, this problem can be solved. Blockchain provides an encrypted way of storing a patient’s information in a distributed database that can only be accessed by the patient’s authentication. Blockchain enables different stakeholders to write information to this database that runs on various “nodes” and each transaction is validated by a set of miners that solve mathematical algorithmic puzzles to ensure authenticity and trustworthiness of a node.
A hospital could upload the data about the patient’s treatment, the pathology lab could upload their medical records and only the patient could access these with the key. The selected list from these records could be sent to the insurance provider. The insurance provider could write data once their process is done. This creates a safe environment for every service provider to store, read and write data. This would not be possible without Blockchain’s pseudonymous encrypted data storage abilities.
Blockchain companies like Duality Solutions have come up with solutions like Blockchain as a Service [BaaS] where they take care of complete setup and maintenance of a blockchain setup for healthcare providers. Duality has a bouquet of solutions that take care of all back-end tasks such as setting up the servers, node setups, security, configurations, and maintenance.
Blockchain is said to be as revolutionary as the internet. Healthcare has been pegged to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of this revolution. EMR is one critical use case. Technology will make it simpler and seamless for all the service professionals and the patient.
Pundi X Launches Africa’s First Blockchain Smartphone
While at the GSMA Mobile 360 Africa event on July 16, 2019, Pundi X, a distributed ledger technology (DLT) startup launched XPhone, a blockchain-based smartphone in Kigali, Rwanda. XPhone is the first blockchain-powered smartphone to be unveiled in Africa, reportsNewtimes on July 17, 2019.
First Blockchain-based Smartphone to be Launched in Africa
Per the report, Pundi X has released XPhone, the first blockchain-based smartphone launched in Africa. The XPhone can make calls, text, take photos and surf the net amongst other things with the help of the distributed ledger technology.
As a result, it bypasses local service providers in Rwanda such as MTN and it is decentralized in nature without any third parties involved in its transmission, ensuring that the user’s data remains private.
XPhone also differs from other smartphone devices because it is neither powered by Android, iOS, nor Windows Operating systems, but the Function X (FX) OS which is based on blockchain technology. The smartphone allows for a seamless transition between traditional Android to blockchain mode..
Pundi X to Release 5,000 XPhones in Late 2019
Notably, the Pundi X team has revealed its intention to release 5,000 XPhones in late 2019 and that it is looking for telecommunication companies to partner with in order to launch more of these devices.
The blockchain company had recently completed integration support on its XPOS module on Verifone’s X990 in a bid to enable retail outlets to process crypto payments as well as fiat transactions.
Nonetheless, there are regulatory concerns in the Rwanda which may negatively impact on the adoption of its new blockchain phone. Rwanda citizens may also be adamant about adopting the devices due to the sceptical nature people have about complex technologies.
It is, however, remarkable to see an increasing rise in the launch of blockchain smartphones in 2019, even though they are powered with their respective operating systems.
Electroneum, a blockchain company on February 25, 2019, launched a low-cost blockchain smartphone which features the company’s cloud mining technology and mobile crypto mining app to enable users to earn its ETN native token.
In the same vein, technology company Sirin Labs which launched its Finney blockchain smartphone in 2018 announced on March 21, 2019, that it will be integrating MyEtherWallet into the phone. BTCManager on April 29, 2019, also informed that the electronics giant HTC is planning the launch of a second-generation blockchain-based smartphone by the second quarter of the year.