Blockchain Adoption: Key Healthcare Beneficiaries

Healthcare IT is an arena where one finds silos of data marts and standards. Enterprise applications have designed their data schema and storage processes independently. Given the privacy and confidentiality associated with patient data, it is an expected design strategy that everyone has followed. As a consequence, core healthcare functions like patient care coordination, claims, billing, clinical trials and data management have all suffered with ad hoc integration efforts. Fortunately, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel with blockchain promising to overcome all these issues with a decentralized architecture for ease of data exchange. The enormous hype with which blockchain has arrived, let us look at some real beneficiaries should it be deployed in healthcare industry.

Insurance
With verified and documented patient behaviour on the blockchain, insurance companies can rely on the patient lifestyle data to incentivize on their premiums. Patients with verified wellness data, collected from connected devices, viz., fitbit, Apple Watches, diet and other wellness mobile apps, can qualify discounts and other freebies from the insurance. This will help in building the patient-insurance relationships and can foster their future business.

Research / Clinical Trials
Patient generated health data (PGHD) with the quality, volume and level of security that blockchains promises, it could unlock massive potential for clinical trials and research. Currently, with the silo’ed data storage, there is hardly any data sharing at the expense of confidentiality. And whatever data is available for trials is of low quality and often unreliable. Blockchains could get crucial clinical trial data to the research organizations that need them most. The other aspect is of data quality; often trials are held in countries with minimal data transparency laws which result in the trials being unreliable for final reporting. The key feature of blockchain of public transparency can resolve these issues and add enormous value to healthcare industry.

Management
Using blockchain for patient records management and bridging the data gaps in traditional data stores can increase efficiencies and keep the medical business more vibrant economically. With inbuilt dataflow and smart contracts the data sharing can be in a secure and compliant way. It will be easy to store, move and manage share (SMMS) using blockchain framework.

Patient
The major beneficiary in the whole blockchain implementation in healthcare is invariably the patient, as it will help him / her gain the rightful ownership of all his / her healthcare data. For all along, the patient data was managed in proxy by the provider or insurance in pockets. Blockchain will give the patients the freedom to move from one provider to another without losing the control of his / her data. Patient will have the full control of who, what data and for how long his / her data will be accessed. Blockchain will make the patient the primary decision maker in healthcare data management. The provenance of patient’s data will also help in getting a care which is holistic in nature and not based on just symptoms.

Realization of Benefits
For key healthcare stakeholders worried about the blockchain implementation costs, it is important to realize that this will not be done by replacing the time tested legacy systems. Blockchain will not be replacing all data stores but will provide a secure and reliable conduit for ease of data exchange between applications and existing infrastructure.
Blockchain potential is in becoming a “middle-ware” to all healthcare data. This will be akin to messaging protocols that we witnessed in the mid-90s, which provided the interoperability and at the same time increased efficiencies of the existing application multi-fold.

Steps for an ICO Launch

Initial Coin Offering (ICO) that gives investors the opportunity to become involved in the #crypto world. An #ICO is a fundraising mechanism, where the proposed future crypto currency is sold for current crypto-currencies as tokens. The following sections describe a logical sequence of steps required for launching an ICO successfully.

A. Creating a White Paper

An ICO white paper presents problem area, proposed solution and a clear road-map for the project. Typically, a white paper should not be more than 10 pages as it can put-off potential investors. It should be an easy read and should neither be completely technical nor totally business related. However, it should offer clear solution implementation approach and mention why the proposed solution is superior to existing solutions, if any. It should detail out the investment needs and how the funds will be used for the product development. It is something that needs to make the potential subscriber excited and make him invest in this project and buy the tokens.

B. Website

Website is another place where the promoters explain their product in detail. It may also contain some demos and #PoC that will help the potential subscriber to understand the problem area and make him enthused.

C. Marketing

This is one of the most important steps. The ICO token has to be made visible to all potential investors; it has to make them curious when it is shown in various media. Sufficient budget, time and resources have to be spent in promoting this proposed token in social media like, Reddit, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, Google, Instagram, YouTube, etc., to garner subscriber and make the ICO sale a success. Participation in popular blockchain events and networking to promote the ICO is a key success factor.

D. Smart Contract Development

The next step is in designing and developing a smart contract to deliver a secure #ERC20 token. An ERC20 compliant token is easily tradable on exchanges as it implements common functionality to move the funds from one address to another.

E. Contract Audit

ICO smart contracts will eventually handle real money so security is of great importance. It is impossible to guarantee the complete security of a contract without a thorough smart contract audit. These audits have to be conducted by an experienced individual or a professional organization to find the most subtle vulnerabilities.

A typical audit will be complete once the following tasks are done:

Solidity Code Review: This requires working closely together with the developersto understand all the functionality of the contracts.

Comprehensive Contract Analysis: Analysis of the long term goals of the contract. Advice on rollover to new contracts after the funding period completion.

Manual Analysis of results and outcomes: To ensure that the code is doing exactly what it is expected to do.

Gas Analysis: Minimum requirements for each call and where possible, a maximum gas limit listed for the functions.

Security Audit: Iterative procedure working with the developers to stop any third party from acquiring tokens without consent. Needs to cover all previous successful hacking attempts of ERC20 tokens.

F. ICO Crowd Sale

In this step of ICO implementation, tokens are distributed to potential investors in exchange of crypto-currency, viz., Bitcoin, Ether, or any fiat currency, USD, Euro, etc. Based on the token sale plan described in the white paper, a percentage of the total number of tokens will be open for sale to public in specified time period. The user’s existing crypo-currency or fiat currency is exchanged with the new proposed token based on the token published unit rate.

All the best in your launch.

 

 

Blockchain & IoT: Foundations of Smart Cities

I. Introduction

What are Smart Cities?

Earlier, as mankind evolved, cities were developed based on the industrialization and / or by the river-banks, where water and livestock was available in plenty. While in the modern era efforts are on to build cities on the corridors of economic growth by providing core infrastructure which is the main impetus for smart cities. The core infrastructure includes, water, electricity, healthcare, education, safety, security, transportation, sustainable environment, waste management and accommodation. The prime objective of a Smart City is in providing core infrastructure and to give a decent quality of life to its populace. A smart city uses information technology to integrate and manage physical, social, and business infrastructures in order to enable better services to its people while ensuring efficient and optimal utilization of available resources. With the widespread use of connected devices, or Internet of Things (IoT) and creation of a trusted network aka, Blockchain, new innovative solutions can be enabled for direct interaction between the government and its people. The new initiative of the Government of India (GoI) by earmarking tier-II cities to be developed as Smart Cities there is a strong emphasis on building the core infrastructure and enabling transparency in the governance. The new technology frameworks provide high potential for enabling this idea into reality.

What is IoT?

The concept of IoT is the network of devices, appliances, vehicles and other accessories that we use daily, embedded with software and hardware so as to collect data and exchange information. Each of these devices feature an IP address so that it can be located, monitored and managed from anywhere. It is being developed to make the internet even more immersive and pervasive so that a wide variety of devices such as, home appliances, surveillance cameras, monitoring sensors, actuators, displays, vehicles, and so on, can all be under one network of connected devices. Extending this concept of all connected devices in a home, to all homes in a locality and all localities in a city makes it a Smart City application. As we can see IoT is fundamental core and integral part of a Smart City implementation. Parking tickets and traffic violations received in mail after detection in street CCTVs is a simple example of IoT in practice.

How does Blockchain help?

Blockchain offers a technology to establish transparency and security, as one of its main characteristics is a neutral, non-hierarchical, accessible and secure database. It is a decentralized technology where the database is managed by the network and there is no central authority. The participating nodes in the network keep copies of the transactions and agree on the changes made by consensus. This makes it ideal for preventing corruption and creating transparency in dealings with the government among others. Just as there are bank records for financial transactions, Blockchain is record of digital transactions; it is also called Internet of Transactions (IoTrans). Incorporating Blockchain into the development of smart cities will make it possible to have a cross-cutting platform that connects the cities’ different services, adding greater transparency and security to all processes. Blockchain can be used for a variety of applications, such as tracking the ownership of real estate assets, authenticity of legal heirs and wills, voting rights, etc.

Blockchain and IoT is a marriage made in heaven to deliver Smart Cities as a reality. IoT as we can see connects each and every device that can be managed, while the trusted network based on Blockchain can enable deployment of smart contracts that can monitor the operations and roll-out services in an efficient and effective way. Smart contract can implement the policies autonomously thereby eliminating human intervention and the associated mistakes and / or malpractices.

II. Application Landscape

As we have seen in the introduction, there is a huge potential for developing new applications as we build smart city. The following sections briefly touch upon the areas and dwell on the applications’ overview that are being deployed in the smart cities globally.

smartCity-21

• Governance: Transparency and accountability is of utmost importance in building application for good governance and public utilization:

o Land Registrations: Land registration department is where one agency operates any kind of land dealing and transactions, and once it is computerized, it can be subject to change. But if a land transaction is recorded on a Blockchain based network, it cannot be tampered. Complete details of the land, like the owner, income, lineage, etc. can be retained along with a change history. If a bank wants to lend a loan, this land information can be checked in this Blockchain store to establish the identity and to decide if sanctioning a loan is viable or not. This not only improves efficiency, cuts down on dubious deals but also reduces cost of operations.

o E-Voting: Securing and guarding democratic process and conducting free and fair election is a daunting task. India has time and again proved that it can deliver on this by adopting to new platform and technologies. We have moved from paper ballot to electronic voting machines, however, these too are under severe criticism of being tamper prone. In order to build a fool-proof system we can leverage the Blockchain framework to make voting a secure and trustworthy mechanism.

• Utilities: Public distribution system are frequent targets of vandalism and pilferage, be it power, water or gas transmissions. In order to make distribution leak-proof, we can deploy self-monitoring devices that are managed by smart contracts which can cut-off supply on detection of unaccounted usage / loss. For example, more than 40% clean water loss can be prevented by deploying such systems in a smart city launch.

• Transport: Traffic monitoring and fast routes to prevent congestions and to divert vehicles away from points of incidents using CCTVs and routing algorithms based smart contracts. Driverless vehicles and safe transport based on commuter density for improved performance and efficiency in public transport systems.

• Safety: Alert mechanisms to protection forces and motion detection to reduce thefts / incidents in high security zones and remote locations. Ability to provide higher public safety in congestion areas by use of smart devices and video recordings. Smart contract based rapid action deployment built on Blockchain framework. Fire detection and automated alerts to concerned authorities to prevent and stop spread of fire accidents.

• Waste Management: Using waste bin level monitors to alert garbage trucks to points of fill rather than routine trips which can reduce more than 50% garbage collection costs. Improved sanitary levels by continuous removal of waste from high dump areas.

• Health: Prevent drug addiction and use by drug trace-ability from drug manufacturers, warehouses, retails and patients – only authentic patients can be consuming drugs that are prescribed to them, no spurious users. Ability to develop and administer precision medicine based on individual patient needs and characteristics. Enable researchers and providers collaborate without loss of patient privacy. Wide spread use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) across multiple platforms and applications, no loss or duplication of patient data. Patient data access restricted to authenticated users.

• Buildings: Facilities management and maintenance industries are changing with the advent of new technology platforms and for enhancing operations, safety, security and customer satisfaction. The diverse nature and volume of machinery in facilities include cooling / heating systems, electrical supply, deep freezers, escalators / elevators, IT systems, CCTVs, motion detections, etc. IoT platform is the answer to most of facility management issues and for optimal and efficient usage. Device identity and security are the key factors for building maintenance and to prevent cyber attacks. Smart contract based policy deployment can reduce costs in power consumption and operations of up to 50%.

• Indian Context: In digital India, we already have Aadhar identity which can be used in conjunction with the Blockchain framework for smart governance in trade finance. It is also very useful for universities and educational institutions for validating students and storing their education transcripts. Blockchain based sharing of education transcripts will help the students move to newer graduate programs and to pursue higher degrees. Potential employers can use this platform for background checks and verification without the need for any third party agency.

III. Plausible Challenges

When automation and smart cities become fully functional, many experts feel that there is lack of complete legal framework for policy regulation of IoT networks. For example, questions remain as to who is responsible in case of defaults and service disruptions, is it network provider, device manufacturer, monitoring authority or the user of technology. Currently, we are seeing instances of these legal issues being played out. For example, in the driver-less transport systems that are being tried out in the west, in case of accidents / collisions, who is to be blamed, the car manufacturer? Software developer? Or the satellite systems which are guiding the vehicle in real-time? The security framework for such extensive transmission of data over networks will also need implementation for protection from cyber-crimes and identity thefts.

Some potential issues and areas to ponder about before this new technology can be adopted to real life issues:

Attitudinal Change: As the saying goes, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, with the objective of making all decisions and decision making processes transparent, how will the people in power take this? Will they sit back and let autonomous ‘bots’ play it out while they watch their power grip slip away from their delicate hands? Are they willing to be dictated by the mob justice and social media?

Security and Privacy: Although Blockchain ensures secure transactions there are many potential loopholes that need to be plugged before making business applications go live.

Regulations: Now the decisions are being taken autonomously by smart contracts, it needs to be defined who is responsible in case of service lapses. There are many collaborating technologies and platforms, so identifying the real defaulter in the complex scheme of things is something that needs due diligence and identification before being rolled out to the general public.

Capital Costs: Adopting new technology means new hardware and network requirements, which mean higher start-up costs and installation. Funding is a biggest challenge to build smart city and major player apart from the government need to come forward and pitch in this endeavor.

New Technology: Being the cutting edge of technology, it is unsure how the platform scales up to live production issues. There are still areas of concern on response time and ability to handle thousands of transactions.

Data Sensors: Smart cities are based on data and for data collection we will need sensors. Sensors are needed to see, record, and feel on people’s behalf. We will need millions of sensing devices quickly to collate data and make informed decisions. It the data is not adequate, the decisions will be half-baked.

Smart Cities require smart people who can actively participate in defining governance and formulating reforms. Smart people need to involve in decision making and deployment of smart solutions which are fair and based on factual data which make Smart city implementations worth-while.

Enabling Better Healthcare with Blockchain

I. Introduction

Blockchain is a shared, immutable record of peer-to-peer transactions built from linked transaction blocks that are stored in a digital ledger. This is akin to a write-once database on a secure decentralized trusted network. The notable difference is that the data is located in a network of personal computers called nodes without a central entity controlling the data. Better data sharing between healthcare providers, practitioners, services providers, diagnostic centers and pharmacies, etc., mean a higher probability of accurate diagnoses, more effective treatments, and the overall increased ability to deliver value and cost-effective care. Blockchain technology allows various stakeholders in the healthcare value-chain to share access to their networks without compromising on security and integrity. Blockchain can bring together the complex health care management by integrating finance, payment and the care provision. The inherent properties of cryptographic public and private key access, proof of work and distributed data, creates a new level of integrity for health care application for collaboration and co-existence.

II. Healthcare Claims

Claim processing is a complex and tedious task. Most often, claims for medical activities, be it diagnostics or specialist consultation or medications go through a time consuming manual verification and approval cycle before they are reimbursed. It has been found that over 90% of the claims are standard bills that are raised due to routine check-ups and / or ongoing medication to the patients.

Such kind of claims should not require manual verification and should be processed in near-real time. However, given the bureaucratic nature of the insurance industry these standard claims are put in the verification process queue and they make take up to 60 days for approval and for funds release to the effected party. This manual verification process is not only taking up precious time of the claim verification personnel but also robbing them of their inputs on special cases where they are most needed.

III. Our Proposed Solution

In our proposed Blockchain based claims processing application, we envision the trusted network based smart contracts to do the bulk of the verification of these standard claims and approve the release of funds in near real-time, thereby freeing the verification personnel of their valuable time to focus on complex and claims which require manual intervention and collaboration with external stakeholders. The solution overview is depicted in Figure. 1, and shows the typical workflow of the smart contract based claims approval and fulfillment application.

A. Background

Diagnostic center which provides various tests are signed up by insurance companies to be part of their services network.

Each of these diagnostic centers will have an approved list of tests which the patients can avail. The rate card and cost for these approved tests are defined in the contract between the insurance company and the diagnostic center. Patients sign-up for suitable insurance plans based on their needs which enable them to go for periodic tests and consultations from the network of providers of that insurance payer.

B. Workflow

Typically, when a patient needs certain testing to be done he/she will approach one of the diagnostic center that is part of the insurance network. The tests are then conducted at the diagnostic center after providing them the appropriate authentication or identity card. On completion of the tests and receiving the test results the patient shall then authenticate on the system that the said test has been completed successfully. This action initiates the smart contract on Blockchain and verifies the diagnostic center, patient data, approved test and associated costs. If the information is in sync with the approval process, the smart contract then will approve the costs and the payment is released to the diagnostic center for rendering that service to the patient.

C. Payback

Since the smart contract resides on the trusted write-only Blockchain network, the transaction is immutable and can be audited at any point of time later. The approval is also recorded in the Blockchain network. In the current scenario, the above described claim processing steps are done manually and it is time consuming one. Typically, the claims are reimbursed to the parties after 45 to 60 day delay, provided all the paper work is in place. Using Blockchain embedded with smart contracts, we are able to reduce this a few minutes for most of the standard claim processes.

D. Adoption / Extensions

A similar workflow is adopted for specialist consultation and routine hospital visits without complications. The amount of manpower reduction in this approval process for insurances itself is a great motivator for implementing this platform. Apart from the tangible ROI of this system which the insurance can enjoy, they will also free up the personnel bandwidth for processing complex claims and approving them with required due diligence with the concerned parties.

Real-time Twitter Analysis with Hadoop/Flume

Real-time Twitter analysis using Hadoop / Flume.

Here is the flow on how we can analyze tweets in real-time:

From Twitter Service we push to Flume, which consists of Twitter Source, Memory Channel and a HDFS Sink. Then a HDFS table is configured to point to this sink. Once data is in HDFS, we can use the a tool of our choice to query and generate the required summaries / analysis.

Here are the steps in brief:
a) Register an application in https://dev.twitter.com/apps/ to get keys to access twitter feed.
b) Assuming that Flume is installed, it has java classes to pull Tweets into HDFS.
c) Define agents in flume.conf by providing the application keys obtained in (a).
d) Start flume and you will start seeing tweets in HDFS:/user/flume/tweets.
e) Start hive and create an external table and point to the tweets source of (d).
f) Now you can use query this table to find the user with most followers, or user most re-tweeted.

Enjoy!

Hadoop – Pig vs Hive

Pig Hive
Procedural Declarative
Dataflow language and environment for exploring very large datasets. Distributed data warehouse
Data flow style, is more suitable for software engineer.
Suitable for scripting-aware programmers
More suitable for analytics person who are get used to SQL.
Easier for SQL-aware developers
Tends to create a flow of data: small steps where in each you do some processing. Gives SQL-like language so transformation from RDBMS is much easier.
Integration with scripting easier, viz., Python, Perl, etc Easier to invoke from BI tools via ODBC.
Handles both structured and unstructured data efficiently. Handles structured data very efficiently.
May not retain the values of variables. Tables (external) will remain even after the session is completed.
Has no metadata support, (or it is optional, in future it may integrate hcatalog). Metadata stored in database.
Writing user defined functions (UDF) is easier. UDF development is complex.
Suitable for complicated data structure( like small graph, DataBag, a collection of tuples). Complex data can be managed but not so convenient.
Suited for high parallelism and hence for larger data sets. Can be used for large data sets but need initial setup.
Allows for lazy evaluation, best suited for streaming. Needs data to be loaded first to do computations.
Faster in data import but slower in execution. Faster in execution.
Widely used and promoted by Yahoo. Predominantly used at Facebook.

Reference: Yahoo Developer

BI Performance Drivers

To optimize the Oracle OBIEE deployment it is necessary that we understand the underlying factors that affect the performance of the application. The key performance drivers are the ones that impact the overall performance. The following is an indicative list of drivers for OBIEE performance tuning:

Hardware – this could comprise of the server components, no. of processors, RAM, network speed, no. of servers, clustering, etc.

Platform Tuning – all the software platforms and underlying operating system settings, the RDBMS, middle ware like  java application server and web server, browser, etc.

Application Design – application design play an important role in the overall performance of the application – architecture, no. of software layers, tight and loose coupling of modules, custom features and reports, drill down hierarchy, etc.

Business Process Usage – typical business process usage and usage in extreme cases, concurrent users, no. of transactions per hour, user activity, and peak time periods.

Understanding all the above performance drivers in the context of your application will help you to design and optimize for performance.