Published in El Pais, 18 August 2020.
With the pandemic we are finding new and ingenuitive ways to help combat the virus and to make life more tolerable at home. One technology that is often overlooked is blockchain and many companies are making promising headways that can help fight this as well as create a solution to many problems we face today.
Around the world governments are releasing tracing applications that inform you if you have been near a phone that belongs to someone that has recently tested positive for COVID-19. As cool as this sounds it does mean it is tracking your location, something many are hesitant to share. Blockchain companies are rumored to be working on their own tracing application that would only grant access to the information governments are privy to, mainly whether you have been near someone who has been tested positive. They would not know where you were or what you were doing even if it wanted this information. This would be a huge boon as the fact that your information would be kept completely private would certainly increase active participants.
People are not the only ones secretive about their information, many businesses have large internal data networks that provide quick and automated information to its workforce, for third parties however, that is another story. Usually it is impossible to automate data retrieval for non-employees as it would give them information to everything, forcing employees to share selective information the old fashion way, i.e email, fax and even regular mail. Companies are trying to create decentralized networks through blockchain that allow the sharing of specific information without revealing everything. Such networks can increase cooperation amongst governments and pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines or sharing the number of infected.
Digital documents are easy to duplicate and share but are just as easy to fake, this is why many institutions require either originals or notarized copies, which of course must be distributed through regular mail. Blockchain companies are working on ways to authenticate digital documents and detect alterations, every time a document is put on the blockchain a digital fingerprint is created, when it is copied or distributed the digital fingerprint can be traced back to the original, any attempt at alteration will change the fingerprint and thus be flagged when checking for authenticity. This could be applied to scientific research being done. This can also make virtual doctors visits easier as physicians can write digital prescriptions that pharmacies can easily authenticate.
This of course is just a small sampling of how blockchain can fight the virus and many of these applications can be applied for problems long after the virus is over. The potential truly is limitless.