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Applying blockchain technology to multiparty systems

Industrial sectors are being grouped together under certain silos to make administrative and jurisdiction matters easier. Undeniably, the activities of these sectors overlap with one another. For instance, the food and beverage sector is closely related to, and dependent on, each other. 

Also, when we talk about multiparty system, it also goes beyond the corporate or private sector but obviously involve the public sector (including the government and bureaucrats)– think public-private partnership schemes applied in infrastructure projects. 

For instance, in public health emergency cases such as the COVID-19 pandemic, private pharmaceutical companies and the Health Ministry need to validate and share vaccine manufacturing information between one another. The same logic also applies to how bed occupancy rate information is managed by the local health agencies and the local hospitals.

These systems also involve the academia and civil society organizations.

Yet, due to technological constraints, usually these different sectors use different computer programs and applications to keep track of specific operational activities: such as raw ingredient sourcing, processing, etc. This impedes data and information flow and because of this, inter-sectoral collaborations become less efficient. 

This will cause significant problems during emergency situations, such as in the case of resource scarcity, natural/human-made disasters or public health crises (such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic) — which require high supply chain management prowess. 

How blockchain can help

To bolster supply chain readiness to face such emergency situations, tech companies are now developing solutions which seek to make multiparty systems work more efficiently and faster. Yet, even during non-emergency periods, the multiparty systems can help make various human activities easier. 

Currently, the peer-to-peer network app blockchain offers a great solution to manage activities, transactions, data and information flow of these multiparty systems. Because it does not rely on a single, central server, the blockchain infrastructure is not hampered by information and data bottlenecks which often happen in centralized systems, which make transactions and activities sluggish (not a great idea during emergency situations).

Finally, the peer-to-peer network app also helps stakeholders break the data silos caused by the use of different apps or computer programs, thus allowing parties to communicate rapidly among each other. The app also makes all data and information available, distributed evenly to all members of the peer-to-peer network, helping all parties involved achieve holistic decision-making processes.

Finally, apart from these distinctive features of the peer-to-peer network app technology, another advantage of the blockchain solutions is the fact that they are being automated, which allows different elements to cross-validate transactions. 

This advantage also works well in the multiparty emergency scenario. Say during a new, particularly nasty wave of COVID-19 pandemic outbreak of the Echo variant or whatever, a patient needs to be transferred to a hospital yet most hospitals are almost fully occupied with oxygen supplies lacking. The multiparty blockchain application can help the oxygen manufacturers, health agencies and hospitals to coordinate automatically based on how different supply-demand information is being matched. 

This results in the patient being wheeled away to an available hospital with adequate oxygen supply. With shorter lag time between emergency situations and their corresponding aid, hopefully more people can be saved. This will also spare family members and relatives the highly stressful frantic phone calls to numerous hospitals and oxygen suppliers to find help for their loved ones.

Concrete use of blockchain in multiparty systems

Thankfully, although the scenario written above is merely a projection on how the blockchain technology can be used to manage multiparty systems, some private and public institutions have begun to adopt the technology — to coordinate traceability of the COVID-19 infection.

Many prominent tech companies have also included blockchain in their business portfolio, tapping into blockchain’s potentials in managing multiparty system activities, finally recognizing its potentials beyond “just” the financial realm. The global tech giant IBM, for instance, is developing what it calls IBM Blockchain Platform 2.5 — the latest in its blockchain solution infrastructure development series. 

Another application of the blockchain in managing the multiparty system can be seen in COVID-19 vaccine-tracking activities in Europe. In order to travel, or even go to public places like restaurants or cafés, people need to show their vaccine certificates. 

Thankfully, instead of carrying physical documents around to get travel permit — which can be difficult, no matter how small they are — the blockchain system allows individuals to simply scan QR codes in these public spaces with their smartphones, where information from their vaccine certificate can be taken off-chain using some digital signatures to be used by the management of these public spaces. 

The information and data stored and distributed over the peer-to-peer network can also readily be used for contact tracing purposes. 

Some privacy and security concerns

Well, no technology is ever designed perfectly and this principle also works for the blockchain apps. In this case, the strength of the peer-to-peer network — namely, that it distributes data and information evenly across all network members — is also its weakness in terms of privacy. 

This is especially true when we are dealing with sensitive data such as a person’s health status during the pandemic. Yes, data and information regarding someone’s COVID-19 positive status is important for the healthcare workers for contact tracing efforts to stem the tide of the outbreak. But, is it ethical to expose that information to the manager of the restaurant which had been frequented by the patient in question before he was tested positive?

The same question of confidentiality is also relevant to the healthcare service – insurance company collaboration. The fact that a patient/client’s health history and risks are made available to all members of the peer-to-peer network might be disagreeable to some people.

Thankfully, the blockchain smart contract developers have already improved how the system works in the realm of data security and privacy. It has some features which can disguise some confidential elements of these documents, to ensure that only deserving and pertinent parties have access to these documents.

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