Health News

Austrian government makes blockchain award for COVID-19 solutions

covid 19 coronavirus testing

The Austrian government recently awarded a €60,000 ($67,000) grant to a COVID-19 prevention research project utilizing the Ardor blockchain. Called QualiSig, the project was initiated by A-Trust and Danube University Krems with Ardor developer Jelurida as the consulting partner. 

QualiSig is exploring blockchain for secure communication and data exchange between citizens, government agencies, and other authorities. The goal is to use digital signatures and blockchain to develop three prototypes under the QualiSig banner for testing, verification of testing personnel, and health data management, including test reports. 

QualiSig received the funding as part of the Corona Emergency Call of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency. 

A-Trust develops mobile phone signature solutions to authenticate users on the internet. The company’s products are primarily used in e-business and e-government areas. The company said it has about 1.4 million people registered as mobile phone signature users under its ‘Handy Signatur’ solution. 

The QualiSig project was developed by Thomas Wernbacher and Alexander Pfeiffer of Danube University. The prototypes will use the Ardor blockchain ecosystem. 

“This project will combine qualified digital signatures based on compliant digital citizenship solutions with blockchain technology having the best of both worlds – government-approved authentication combined with a unique decentralized and encrypted data storage,” said Kristina Kalcheva, co-founder of Jelurida.

For the first use case, blockchain will be able to verify identities for requesting tests, arranging appointments and communicating results. Secondly, if there is door-to-door testing, blockchain can help to identify testing personnel. 

The last use case is health data, which would include COVID-19 testing reports, which will be securely stored on phones or personal computers.

QualiSig aims to give users control of this data and enable them to share it as they see fit. It is similar to blockchain immunity passports that are being trialed elsewhere. 

There have been several concerns regarding data security and the privacy of users using COVID-19 prevention applications. The European Parliament demanded the decentralization of data collected by contact tracing apps. 

Some others exploring blockchain for dampening COVID-19 effects include UK’s Open University, Swiss ticketing firm TIXnGOICCBaseline Protocol, and U.S.-based quantum dot producer Quantum Material Corp, among several others. 

Meanwhile, Austria’s HotCity project is leveraging Ardor blockchain to crowdsource waste heat for use in other processes.