Spanish Researchers Working to Curb Coronavirus Spread With Blockchain App

As well as helping predict the spread of COVID-19, the app could act as a digital version of government certificates permitting citizens to go to work or the store.

AccessTimeIconApr 17, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 8:30 a.m. UTC

Researchers in Spain are racing to develop a smartphone app that leverages blockchain technology and artificial intelligence to help stem the coronavirus pandemic.

A team of more than 100 researchers from the Institute of Biomedical Research of Salamanca, the University of Salamanca and the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute are developing the app to predict the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as ensuring government measures are being adhered to.

The app, which is currently at the proof-of-concept stage, would potentially also allow for health officials to make smarter decisions. For example, if there's an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, officials can choose to order citizens to stay at home.

Using blockchain technology enables the app to give each participant a "digital identity" controlled by a private key that brings access a digital version of paper certificates issued by the government. These allow the confirmed healthy to leave home to buy food or to work, according to two lead researchers Juan Manuel Corchado and Javier Prieto, who spoke to IEEE Spectrum for a report on Thursday.

Corchado and Prieto said the team hopes to find the primary factors affecting the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

"With our app we are trying to provide information gathered about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the evolution of the virus," Corchado and Prieto said. "We are also trying to support medical professionals and government officials about decisions they need to make regarding the pandemic, including social distancing and quarantine measures."

As well as blockchain, the effort employs AI to help predict the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic based on patient information including genetic profiles, medical records and prior treatment of the virus. Utilizing what's known as the Deep Intelligence AI platform, they can make predictions on the behavior of the virus by combining data and information from scientific journals, news articles and healthcare records.

The app would also coordinate foot traffic to limit the number of people gathered in one particular place.

"By providing people with an app, we are trying to guarantee that they are complying with social distancing and quarantine rules imposed by the government," the researchers said.


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