Last week I attended my first Scottish Blockchain Meetup, run by Data Science Recruitment Company MBN Solutions. Wallet.services were talking about their enterprise platform which allows businesses to build blockchain (or distributed ledger technology solutions – run by Peter Ferry, who also acts as Honorary Consul of Estonia! They talked about how the Civtech programme gave them access to subject matter experts to guide product development, about the problems DLT (distributed ledger technology) will be able to solve, and demo-ed their platform using a real-life solution they built for Disclosure Scotland, the public body tasked with certifying people to work with vulnerable people. Wallet.services have just published their Scottish Government mandated report on DLT (sign up to their email to receive), and also a blockchain checker. This blog represents my notes from the evening, so may at times deteriorate into a stream of consciousness, but hopefully it is interesting nonetheless! At the end of the article, I briefly discuss a few thoughts and ideas about DLT in health & care.
Doing business in a digital world is more complicated than it needs to be. We still deal with processes – as citizens with government, or B2B – that can be error prone and friction-ful. It’s also difficult to manage sensitive information online – there is a constant risk of it being misused or data being breached, with plenty of examples in the news eg Equifax losing credit card and driving license data + Facebook being fined. In this environment, cybersecurity is about finding the holes and sticking plasters on them.
The user experience is awful too – eg for citizens filling in forms with the same data over and over again, particularly for public services.
Wallet.services views ledger technology as being 1) a solution to security issues, 2) a way to enable safe data sharing and 3) a way to stitch together services for people.
Wallet.services won the cybersecurity track of the Scottish Government (SG) Civtech competition – allowing fantastic access to subject matter experts in SG, and allowed them to build the first example of this technology for public service use. The first process was about an air weapons certificate – a nice use case because it was a new piece of legislation for SG. It was a good example of a compliant process – application, certification, verification and involving private sector (retailer and gun club), citizen, police… allowing the license to be issued and checked using the mobile app – and it won awards.
That experience informed the process of building their generic platform “SICCAR”, which addresses both B2C and B2B use cases – working with SG. Also picked up business in manufacturing and private sector to learn more about customer problems. Have continued to work with SG to help them become world leaders in adopting this technology and moving this ecosystem forward. SG elected to commission a report written by Wallet.services which you can find by signing up here.
Dr Hannah Rudman went on to talk about some of the customer problems that this technology could solve. SG falls back on databases to manage citizen data, with this sometimes being turned back into paper. Data is also duplicated and modified. The issues were all about security, trust and GDPR compliance.
She then talked about other world leading practice. There is a global ecosystem developing around pilots in blockchain. Whilst the big names do feature, small countries with high level sponsorship from the government are attracting a lot of money for data governance projects. Other projects include token based circular economy models, as well as peer to peer services to remove aggregator services.
In the UK, there are a number of pilots:
- HMRC pilot for border
- HM Land Registry
- Universities including Strathclyde and Napier offering courses.
- Hong Kong and Sydney exchanges have moved to blockchain.
Finally she talked about their recommendations to SG – including more investment, collaborations between Universities and Business.
Wallet.services also has a Blockchain checker – for allowing people to check whether their use cases would be appropriate.
Peter returned to the stage and talked about the real problem being how to make DLT real for people who run companies – how to help them understand it. That’s what SICCAR is about. Peter showed a use case for an individual called Fred who only wants to share his data with Org A for the use agreed prior. Because he does not want his data shared with Org B, SICCAR prevents his data being shared with Org B eg preventing facebook from oversharing.
I had a question about this: people already have very stringent controls over their facebook data – with a whole section for toggling who can see it etc – the problem is that people have never reviewed it or looked at it, not the technology per se. Peter answered this question by saying whilst that is true, Facebook doesn’t actually have to act on those controls – but DLT would enforce them to act on it.
So wallet.services have created a tool that allows a business analyst to put together a string of rules in such a contract. Peter showed a concrete example using Disclosure Scotland – where there are countersignatories, Scottish Rugby Union, police scotland and information flowing back and forth between the parties.
Gartners mistakes/problems with DLT included the requirement for organisations to have shared infrastructure, the technology gap between organisations and latency or falling behind the newest systems, and lastly DLT requiring integration with existing systems. In this Disclosure Scotland situation, it is infeasible to imagine that you could give access to a shared database – no one organisation wants to be in charge of all that data. SICCAR blocks the organisations from the responsibility of having expose sensitive data, or training staff for DLT. They’ve completely isolated them from DLT!
Pavitt, Chief Product Officer, showed us the SICCAR “designer” for creating DLT contracts – they have purposely made it feel like any other business analysis software. He showed how once you have designed your process, you can select which organisations can see which piece of data – tailoring the data sharing. Pavitt then showed a screen recorded version of this process for Disclosure Scotland which was brilliant.
DLT in Healthcare
It is important to be clear about where we are in the lifecycle of this technology.
The comparison I have seen being made is to the early days of the internet. No-one thought in the early days of the internet that you might be able to have a smartphone connecting to medical devices at home sending information through to a cloud clinical system for remote decision making and monitoring.
The point I want to make is that while it is important to look for appropriate early use cases for this technology, we should be patient to allow them to develop (potentially over many years) – and we may not immediately see the true benefits. Furthermore, business models and ways of working need to change dramatically to recognise these benefits.
Looking at NHS IT and then healthcare in general, it’s not particularly controversial to say that we haven’t even got the basics yet compared to other industries – I’ve seen quoted that we’re at least 10-15 years behind. So improvements need to be made there, before seeing benefits from DLT.
I’ll write a blog post in the near future with a few healthcare use cases and will link to it here.