Oct 22, 2020

IBM launches a blockchain-based health pass

Digital health
Joanna England
3 min
The new COVID-19 digital pass stores health information on smartphones, giving users control over access
The new COVID-19 digital pass stores health information on smartphones, giving users control over access...

A blockchain-powered digital health pass launched by IBM stores people’s health information on their cell phone, enabling users to have greater control over where their data is shared.

The privacy-protected platform combines dynamic data sources such as on-site temperature scans and test results, allowing users to securely save the information on their mobiles.

It is hoped the IBM’s Health Pass will be useful in easing the back-to-work transition for businesses and social organisations, by providing information on people returning to offices, schools, industry, the travel sector, and more.

Digital health passports are being hailed as the latest technological solution to communities reopening following widespread economic lockdowns. The World Economic Forum has recently backed CommonPass - a new digital health pass initiative for travellers that enables people to electronically show their COVID-19 status before air travel or crossing borders. The digital health pass will, says the WEF, enable individuals to transition to a “new normal.” 

Commenting on the launch of IBM’s new pass, Paul Roma, General Manager, IBM Watson Health, said, “There is an emerging opportunity to help organisations as they aim to bring individuals back to their public spaces. Organisations are looking for solutions that can help them manage the return of individuals to public places while striving to protect their privacy. We are developing the IBM Digital Health Pass to provide organisations with another resource as they begin to reopen.”

IBM concentrated on four areas when piloting their scheme, which included giving organisations the go-ahead to formulate the health status rules, decide their response to the health results, and then give users control over who sees their information and who accesses their data.  

The pass is designed so that the health criteria can be tailored to each organisation’s needs. This is because situations differ in terms of health regulations between industries. IBM cited the disparities between a restaurant and an airline. An airline, it said, had stricter health guidelines to follow than a restaurant where customers can sit outside. 

The Health Pass also allows users to present their information when required and in a controlled manner, instead of having to release personal information regarding lab tests and medical history into a system where it is potentially shared with a much wider audience. 

Furthermore, people have a choice over which organisations see their health status. However, while they have control over who accesses their information, each person must also agree to release their medical data as part of their health status. Some may choose to withhold their results but doing so could have an impact on their final health status.

Speaking about the platform’s privacy, an IBM spokesperson said; “While we see great opportunity for organisations looking to verify health status, using these types of solutions for data-driven decision making. We know that privacy is central to adoption. Protecting health information is incredibly important, and we have designed our solution with privacy as the starting point.”

They added; “Trust and transparency remain paramount when developing a platform like a digital health passport, or any solution that handles sensitive personal information. We have a steadfast commitment to data responsibility. Putting privacy first is an important priority for managing and analysing data in response to these complex times.”

Share article

Jul 23, 2021

New government strategy to put UK ahead in global innovation

3 min
The government’s Innovation Strategy aims to set out plans to confirm the UK’s position as a leader in innovation and enable advancements in technology

The UK government’s plans to increase private sector investment into elevating the UJ’s position in the global innovation race have been outlined in a new Innovation Strategy developed and launched by the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng. The strategy is part of the government’s “long-term vision” to boost private sector investment in R&D across the UK, enabling tech companies such as mobile networks to create new technologies. 

While the private sector is important in boosting R&D spending, the government says that the UK “is still committed” to increasing annual public investment in Research and Development with the aim of reaching a record US$30.2bn (£22bn). 

What will the Innovation Strategy allow the UK government to do? 

By adopting the Innovation Strategy, the government claims it will be able to achieve several other goals. These include:

  • Ensuring government procurement is proactive and supportive, providing a route to market for innovative new products and services
  • Consulting on how regulation can ensure that the UK is well-placed to extract the best value from innovation
  • Commissioning the Regulatory Horizons Council to consider how best to support innovation through regulation, including looking whether there are a set of high-level guiding principles for regulation that may apply broadly to any sector of innovation
  • Introducing new High Potential Individual and Scale-up visa routes, and revitalise the Innovator route to attract and retain high-skilled, globally mobile innovative talent
  • Undertaking an independent review to assess the landscape of UK organisations undertaking all forms of research, development and innovation
  • Reducing complexity for innovative companies by developing an online finance and innovation hub between Innovate UK and the British Business Bank within the next 12 months
  • Expanding IP education programme for researchers and launch International IP Services to bolster innovative companies’ and researchers’ ability to confidently collaborate, export and invest overseas
  • Publishing of a new action plan on ‘Standards for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’, promoting standards that enable innovation to flourish
  • Investing £200mn (US$275mn) through the British Business Bank’s Life Sciences Investment Programme to target the growth-stage funding gap faced by UK life science companies
  • Supporting 30,000 senior managers of small and medium-sized businesses through Help to Grow: Management to boost their business’s performance, resilience, and long-term growth

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said in a statement that “the UK can look back on a proud history of changing the world through innovation. From the industrial revolution to the vaccine development of the past year, the impact on our everyday lives is undeniable.

“That spirit of discovery is still alive in this country today, but we have not always turned our genius for innovation into jobs and companies here in Britain.

“The countries that secure leadership in such transformational technologies will lead the world, enjoying unrivalled growth, security and prosperity for decades to come – and it’s our job to ensure the UK keeps pace with the global innovation race”.

The organisation added that through the long-term plan, it aims to “rekindle our country’s flame of innovation and discovery”, and to aid businesses in taking the “vast opportunities” brought about by innovation.

“If we get this right, we can build the foundations for the new industries of tomorrow, and ensure British firms are at the front of the pack to turn world-leading science into new products and services that are successful in international markets”, the organisation concluded. 

To implement the strategy, the government plans to work with universities and research organisations with five projects receiving part of £127mn capital injection through the Strength in Places Fund, which is delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

In addition to the Strength in Places Fund, £25 million of funding for the Connecting Capability Fund will help drive further economic growth through university-business innovation.


Share article