Saturday, 1 December 2018

What is Blockchain? Part II


If participants in that process are preselected, the ledger is permissioned. If the process is open to everyone, the ledger is described as unpermissioned.

The purpose, and great strength of unpermissioned ledgers is that they cannot be owned by anyone. A good example of this is the Bitcoin ledger. So, while, anyone to contribute data to the ledger, such as a record of a financial transaction, there us no single owner and everyone in possession of the ledger to has identical copies.

This is a major reason why blockchain represents a challenge to institutional power structures and existing industries, and many governments and financial institutions have reacted strongly against this new method of doing business. For example an unpermissioned blockchain has censorship resistance, which means that no one can prevent a transaction from being added to the ledger. The integrity of the ledger is not maintained by an authority or single device but by all users reaching a consensus about its state. This means that unpermissioned ledgers can be used as a global record that cannot be edited: for recording financial transactions, declaring a last will and testament, for example, or assigning property ownership.

One of the fascinating features of blockchain technology is that an additional feature in implemented which makes it more than just a database. Rules can be set about any transaction, sometimes referred to as business logic can be associated with each transaction. This is not only much more powerful than a conventional databases, where the rules may be set at the entire database level.

In contrast to Unpermissioned ledgers, permissioned ledgers are ones that may have one or many owners. When a new record is added, the ledger’s integrity is checked by a limited consensus process. This is carried out by what are known as trusted actors, for example government departments or banks. The consensus process means that permissioned blockchains provide readily verifiable data sets. The mechanism is that the consensus process creates a digital signature, which can be tested and verified by anyone. This method is also faster and more compact as it does not have to store irrelevant records or be checked by slow or inaccessible machines on the network.

In the example of healthcare, requiring many hospitals or even many doctors and healthcare professional’s medical records systems to validate a record (without necessarily hands on help from a human) gives a high degree of confidence in the record’s security. In contrast to the current situation where paper records can be lost or destroyed or databases an be ‘cleaned’ or deleted changing the official record the permissioned record is not subject to whims or influence of an individual or small number of people.

Other interesting alternatives are Distributed ledgers, which are a type of database that is spread across multiple sites, countries or institutions, and is typically public. In a distributed database, records are stored in order in a continuous ledger, rather than sorted into blocks. New records can only be added when the participants reach a quorum. An example of a distributed ledger is the global financial transactions system Ripple. In Ripple a list of validators known as Unique Node Validators is selected from up to 200 known, unknown or partially known validators who are trusted not to collude in defrauding the actors in a transaction. This requires greater trust in the validators or operators of the ledger. The advantage is that it is significantly faster than a system like Bitcoin, but is considered less censorship resistant.
In contrast, a more general concept is that of the shared ledger, typically refers to any database and application that is shared by an industry or private consortium, or that is open to the public.
Interestingly, a shared ledger may use a distributed ledger or block chain as its underlying database, but will often layer on permissions for different types of users. As such, ‘shared ledger’ represents a spectrum of possible ledger or database designs that are permissioned at some level. An industry’s shared ledger may have a limited number of fixed validators who are trusted to maintain the ledger, which can offer significant benefits of quality while maintaining trustworthiness.

Perhaps most interestingly, and not just the cherry in the top, are smart contracts. Smart contracts are contracts whose terms are written in a formalized language that can be executed by a computer or microchip when the blockchain is accessed. This means that they are effectively business logic coded in a specialized computer language instead of legal language. In effect, smart contracts are automatically executed by a computing system, such as a suitable distributed ledger system. The potential benefits of smart contracts include low contracting, enforcement, and compliance costs; consequently it becomes economically viable to form contracts over numerous low-value transactions. The potential risks include a reliance on the computing system that executes the contract and the correct and error free writing of the smart contract.

So hopefully this has been a useful guide to blockchain as a useful technology with potentially widespread influence and helps better understanding. And in summary I think I can’t do better than to quote the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser in recommending that “Algorithms that enable the creation of distributed ledgers are powerful, disruptive innovations that could transform the delivery of public and private services and enhance productivity through a wide range of applications.”

Thursday, 1 November 2018

What is Blockchain? Part I

If you’ve not been in frozen sleep since 2016 it's likely that you’ve heard far more that you could possibly want to about something called Bitcoin, and perhaps something else called block chain. You’ve probably had it all mixed up together and you may have heard that Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan describing bitcoin as a “fraud”. He then went on to say that he would fire any employee from his firm who traded in digital currency for being “stupid.” . Of course that was famously followed up by JP Morgan Securities Ltd., and Morgan Stanley buying millions of euro of XBT note shares which track the price of BitCoin.

So you may be puzzled about the hype.  So to help clear up the confusion I thought I’d give a simple overview of what blockchain actually is. There seem to be as many different ‘expert opinions’ in the field as there are individuals so I’ve used the definitions given by the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser in the National report on “Distributed Ledger Technology.”

So what is a Blockchain? Simply put is a way to store information. It is a type of database that takes a number of records and puts them in what is known as a block. This is rather like collating them on to a single piece paper. Each block is then connected to the next block in a process called chaining. This chaining uses a cryptographic or digital signature, which is a unique number that identifies a particular document or action.

Chaining blocks together like this allows block chains to be used like a ‘ledger’ or accounting book. The advantage over a paper one is that this type can be shared and corroborated by anyone with the appropriate permissions. In the period between 2008 and 2010 a ledger of this sort was set up and publically shared for financial transactions. This is what we call the Bitcoin BTC. There are now a large number of other ledgers of this type (or blockchains) used for a number of processes. If they are financial instruments or used for payment then they are typically called cryptocurrencies.

In the process of using blockchains copies of the ledger are normally shared. There are many ways to corroborate the accuracy of the copies of the ledger, but they are broadly known as consensus. In some cases, for example in Bitcoin, the term ‘mining’ is used for this process.

more soon!

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Are MediChain Tokens linked to the Bitcoin in value?

Questioner: I was of the understanding that since all tokens (whether backed or not) trade in pairs with btc their value is therefore inherently "linked" to the value of bitcoin.. Therefore if Bitcoin falls (most) tokens will also therefore fall proportionately, because they are coupled with btc?

Answer: Not in our case. Our tokens are locked to the US dollar during the ICO period and then floats depending on supply and demand. Because we will never create any more than the original number, as we add more data the tokens raise in value, regardless of he bitcoin.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Why MediChain Tokens will be more stable than the bitcoin

A typical buyer's concern is with the significant volatility seen in Bitcoin the last few weeks.

I had thought we were going to bounce of the recent "lows" but right now the Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency markets are plunging. Obviously, investors are going to be nervous if Bitcoin itself is plummeting that they will be buying into a severely compromised ecosystem (ie the blockchain, bitcoin, crypto) system. Any words you have to assuage these fears is appreciated.

Here is my response

That's a very good point.  Actually, the volatility of standard cryptocurrencies is what we expect to be driving sales of our tokens. The problem with unbacked cryptocurrency is that it has no intrinsic value. What you are converting that into is a token that is backed by something with intrinsic value in the real world, medical data. So even it the bitcoin falls to 0.10 cents the MCU (our token) will not be affected - its value will be staked by the value of all that medical big data we will be acquiring in our ecosystem (databases)  which will be valuable for as long as humans need to fight disease and use knowledge (or data) to do so.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Will patients own history be available to them automatically when they start using MediChain system?

Q: Will patients own history be available to them automatically when they start using MediChain system?

A: Initially, the systems will populate their MediChain data going forwards. We will then offer services to go through past data to further populate their records, but of course, their records are, by their nature, fragmented over multiple systems so that won't just be a single push of a button in most cases.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

How Does MediChain Get Big Data?

Q: For MediChain to be successful it requires initial patient data. How do you intend to do this?"

A:  Ok so there are two strands to this. Patients only need access to their own data, not to other patients. So immediately a patient starts using the system and for the whole time after their data is accessible to them. Patients don't need to access the big data aspect.

For the big data, we combine the aggregated patient data built up over time and the data from our partners and data projects.  A substantial amount of our token and funds raised (totalling about $30M) go into funding projects and collaborations to get super high-quality data to 'seed' the database. There are other major ways that we speed up the population of the database, but these are the main ones.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

The Medical Big Data Platform

There are quite a few Medical Blockchain companies and everyone except ours of them depends on going head to head with multibillion dollar turnover incumbents in the EHR and EMR markets and competing with these established companies for revenue sources.

MediChain is the only one that taps into a different and much bigger pot of revenue which actually benefits the EHR and EMR companies and turns rivals into partners.

This is because, by design, we use the data as anonymised big data. MediChain's tagline is "The Medical Big Data Platform" which indicates our main differentiator. This means that the value in the system is not just the service or end user utility (although we have that too) but in the 'big data which is of huge value to pharmaceutical companies, healthcare systems and insurers. The annual value of this is in the hundreds of billions rather than just the billions that the rival companies tap into. Whats more they are in competition with one another and with the EHR/EMRs. We are not in competition with them

Of course storing data off the blockchain is part of what allows us to do that and to leverage existing big data technologies, but just storing it off the blockchain is not enough and a deep knowledge of specific technologies has to be designed into the system.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Fermi Problems

Enrico Fermi was known for his ability to estimate things quickly and produce an order-of-magnitude guess with only minimal calculation. Hence, a problem where the goal is to simply obtain the nearest power-of-10 estimate is known as a "Fermi problem". Of course, sometimes in life some people think that you need to know things to better accuracy than the nearest power of 10...

How Fermi could estimate things!
Like the well-known Olympic ten rings,
And the one-hundred states,
And weeks with ten dates,
And birds that all fly with one... wings.