The Blockchain Six: Part 2
Blockchain may be the biggest thing in tech since the World Wide Web, but it's much easier to understand through examples than in the abstract.
Here are three more companies from the
partially-state funded Oregon Enterprise Blockchain Venture Studio. The studio is hosted by
R/GA Ventures, an arm of the global digital
ad agency. The 12-week stint for those six will end on Oct. 8 on the OEBVS Demo Day when
they present their work at Portland State University.
The Business Tribune talked to the company leaders recently and asked them the same three questions:
? What is your core product or service?
? What does Blockchain do for it?
? How does being in the R/GA Studio help your business?
Here are the responses of the remaining three companies, Everest, Chronicled, and Patientory.
Brad Witteman, CEO of Everest, wants to create a usable identity for refugees. Currently, when people arrive by boat in Greece or Sicily, they are given a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) identity card.
"We're tackling two major problems. The first one being a lack of identification (rather than identity). My ID is my identification, not my identity," he says, first taking out his I.D. then dumping out his fat wallet. "My identity is my bank accounts, my associations that I belong to, the healthcare system that I belong to, the receipts from the transactions I did, the currency that I'm carrying; it's the locks that I can open.
"If you're a refugee and you walk out of the waves with nothing but the shirt on your back, I can record your biometrics and give you an identity that is good for your life. So that the refugee program from the U.N. (United Nations) and UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) can record people, and then move them from, say Greece where they enter to Europe to Germany, where they're in a temporary community, and then they get hired, say, in Ireland. UNHCR could have handed off their identity between all of those sovereign nations, and told them what these refugees were doing."
He is not targeting the G8; more the 40% of the world's population has no secure identity card system — at least not one that works across borders. The contents of the Everwallet are recorded to a massively scalable, distributed ledger, also known as Blockchain.
The ID card works with biometrics. "Partner organizations like governments, NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) or hospitals with a webcam and a keyboard, can verify a person and transact with them. Services, such as remittances, will be integrated, cash transfers, micro-loans, medical records, insurance..." Whitman told the Business Tribune.
"Banking and payments are, for the first time ever, profitably available to all 7.5 billion people worldwide — including the 5 billion without smartphones."
He says the UNHCR, which inbounds immigrants in Greece, loses track of them as they travel through Europe. His plan is one way immigrants could have an ID, be paid benefits, or send money home.
Witteman also cites how the Burmese government pushed the Rohingya out of the country and did not give them ID papers so they wouldn't have any claim to come back. They ended up in Thailand effectively stateless.
"So now Thailand has all of these Rohingya who don't speak the local language," Witteman said. "Nobody knows who they are. It's only word of mouth of what the refugee can tell you."
In theory, Everest would provide an identity identification system based upon biometry. They use a photo of the face and all 10 fingers (as accurate as fingerprints). The identity inside of the system is called Ever ID, and the wallet is EverWallet. The data can be taken with a smartphone.
Governments, banks, NGOs, and so on, get an "administrative console" so that they can manage their community.
Everest has already deployed in Indonesia.
"In Indonesia, they have a couple of major problems," Witteman said. "They don't know whether they have 280 million people or 340 million people. They made a national identification card and got to about 25% of the nation, and then they were like, 'Now we're done here.'"
The government also has a poverty reduction committee, and they distribute food aid and energy aid in the form of propane tanks.
"For the energy aid, we enrolled 5,000 families or a total of about 7,500 people into our system. And then, over the course of three months, we gave out these little propane gas cans."
There used to be long lines as people got their can in exchange for showing some ID. An official at a table would then look up in a paper phone book and cross them out. There was some abuse as people moved on to another station to get another can, since it took weeks for the list to reach back to Jakarta.
"We turned that entire process from 30 minutes into 90 seconds. The individual walked up to an employee, who shot a selfie of them, put in their PIN in the phone, and then hit one button that said, 'Transfer the tank.'"
This process transferred the empty tank from the user's digital wallet to the agent's wallet. Then, when they got their new full tank of propane, it was transferred from the agent's digital wallet into the citizen's. Because of Blockchain, the tokenized tank can only be transferred once. The agents are employees of the gas company, and they are paid digitally in Rupias, into their digital wallets.
"What we found was zero leakage, no fraud," Witteman said.
The Everest pilot lasted three months, and they're awaiting the government's decision. Now Everest wants to get into the food aid program.
He believes they can follow the same method for remittance, or wiring money around the globe, which is a cumbersome process.
Everest is domiciled in Malta, because Singapore, Malta, Switzerland, Cayman Islands and The Bahamas are the countries that have published information about the virtual financial asset category. The United States and Great Britain are much more vague about the status of such financial instruments.
He thinks R/GA can help with messaging and introductions.
"So this is my ninth startup," Witteman said. "Our story is hard to tell. We're solving a problem that governments solve. What we want to do is solve the bottom 50 countries' problems. They don't have the technology or the capacity to fund this style of solution. But this siloed solution is exactly what they need. So R/GA is helping us to craft our story so that we can tell it in a way that is resonant with the people that shouldn't care about what we're doing and can benefit from what we're doing."
Witteman adds, "We fired three different P.R. agencies over the last two years because nobody can tell our story."
Chronicled aims to track drugs. When a pharmacist orders too much of one drug and returns it to the wholesaler, it's challenging to resell it because it may have expired or been damaged. Blockchain can add a sort of super barcode to every package, identifying where it came from.
This is excellent opportunity for Chronicled because drug diversion is a huge problem.
"Even if 1% or 2% is counterfeit or diverted, you don't want to be the one getting a cancer drug that is fake," CEO Susanne Somerville told the Business Tribune. "In other parts of the world, like in Africa, there are countries that it's 30 to 50% of all drugs that are fake — literally cooked up in someone's garage with fake packaging, fake everything. The law was written into place in 2013," Somerville said. "It took 10 years, with a set of different milestones along the way that the industry had to meet. And the capping milestone at the end in 2023, is that there will be, in this country, an electronic interoperable system to manage the track and trace of prescription medicine in the event of suspect product.
"Our primary work actually starts at the heart of regulation here in the United States for prescription medicine," Somerville said. She used to be head of the supply chain at Genentech, the company which packages drugs in Hillsboro under stringent FDA rules.
"Starting in 2023 in the U.S., Europe and other parts of the world, each box of medicine will have a unique serial number. The intention is to improve the security of medicine. So, by adding a serial number now, they're going to have, literally, a unique identifier at the manufacturers' packaging level. It could be a single vial of a cancer drug; it could be a pack of 24; it could be a drum of 10,000 Valium they put in a hopper at the pharmacy. The law was designed to control all the way from the manufacturer's package to arriving at the dispenser."
Serialization is hard enough on its own. "You have to create the numbers; you have to send them to the computers on the packaging line, print them on the boxes, put them in the barcodes and now you need a system to track them," Somerville said. "It's actually a relatively complex set of controls and systems."
These individual systems will soon need to talk to each other. At Chronicled, they believe Blockchain can do the job.
They started hearing about Blockchain in 2016 and started a working group. They worked toward this coming-soon milestone: "Starting in November 2019, all drugs returned to a wholesaler will be required to be verified before they're allowed to be resold.
"Returns represent 2-4% of all drugs in the United States. There are 800-plus licensed manufacturers, a hundred-plus licensed wholesalers, and probably 10 solution providers that helped manage serial numbers and the question was, how are you going to get all these combinations to talk to each other? The large wholesalers wanted a solution that they could literally scan the barcode and get an answer back in less than a second. So we created a Blockchain-based solution."
Anyone scanning a drug package can pull up four key data points: The item number or barcode, the serial number, the LAT number, and the expiration date. If those four elements match, you should get an answer back that says 'yes' and then they can resell it. When they resell it, they repackage it.
Three wholesalers move 90% of all drugs in the U.S. They are McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health.
"They could have 20,000 returns at night," Somerville said, "and they do it at the middle of the night when they do all their processing. So there's no one they can call and ask, 'Is this number accurate?' Imagine if every pharmacy in the world could get in on this too. Just to check things. Which I think would be pretty cool."
"We stumbled across Blockchain about five years ago, and really thought that
this is a game-changer, allowing us to create a secure storage repository for electronic medical records," said Chrissa McFarlane, CEO of Patientory. She was speaking by video conference from the 11-person company's headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.
"That would give secure access for patients to own their data, and feel empowered about their healthcare. But it would also make it easier for providers in health care to be able to garner that information for better health outcomes."
Currently, healthcare data is siloed, and electronic medical records don't really talk to each other.
"If a person suffers from a chronic illness, and they come to a hospital, and they're sent to a specialist who is on a different medical record system, there's no way they're going to access that. We have four dominant players in the space, and one who has about 70% or more of the market. Epic."
Patientory's P-Point network is a secure healthcare information and network data exchange that runs on Blockchain. They are working with OHSU and Moda to define how they would want to use the platform.
"A good term in healthcare now is Social Determinants of Health (economic, physical and social data, not just medical records)," said McFarlane. "Currently, that data is difficult to agree with the current electronic medical record systems, so being able to tap into an infrastructure, like Blockchain, that can help to pull these data about a person from different sources is definitely going to be helpful," McFarlane said.
Reporter, The Business Tribune
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
Subscribe to our E-News
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)