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Can AI and Blockchain Technology Stop Coronavirus?

Ocean Protocol's ongoing hackathon is bringing together blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, and IoT to help solve the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blockchain technology explained by writing an article entirely in blockchain format

Key Takeaways

  • Ocean Protocol saw the pandemic coming long before it was officially identified by many experts.
  • To help combat further spread, the project has tied with SingularityNET, another decentralized AI firm, to launch a hackathon.
  • COVIDathon ends on June 1 and its participants are eligible for up to $50,000 in prizes.

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Ocean Protocol’s hackathon has brought together a so-called trifecta of technologies to combat the spread of coronavirus. Launched in April, projects using blockchain technology, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are now coming to fruition.

A Trifecta of Technologies to Stop Coronavirus

Bruce Pon, a co-founder of Ocean Protocol and CEO of BigchainDB, has had a close eye on coronavirus developments since January. 

“We had a sense that COVID-19 was going to be pretty serious,” said Pon in an interview with Crypto Briefing. “So, we began wondering how we could use Ocean to safely share any necessary data.” 

Ocean Protocol is a blockchain project before a fintech one. It’s focused on fixing the Internet before Wall Street. This is why Pon and his team have been developing an ethical model for data sharing. 

Our current system is siloed, inefficient, and tends to serve larger companies’ bottom lines instead of the users who supply the data.  

Such a dynamic is problematic for a variety of reasons, but even more so in the medical world. “The holy grail of data has always been health data, even before COVID-19,” said Pon. 

Operating beside the lucrative world of data harvesting is the fast-growing artificial intelligence community. For the uninitiated, AI depends heavily on acquired data to execute its models. Gaining access to this data ethically, however, is not easy. Breaching personal privacy to achieve such ends is not an ideal trade-off. 

Around the time that Ocean Protocol began thinking about how to bring its data-sharing model to coronavirus, the team at Singularity Net reached out. Singularity Net is aligned in roughly the same way but focused on artificial intelligence. 

Led by Dr. Ben Goertzel, an accomplished AI scientist, Singularity Net helped develop many of the modules used in the robot Sophia. 

In April, Ocean Protocol, Singularity Net, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Open Mind, and others launched CovidATHON to combine these technologies and fight the pandemic. “If one of the apps built during this event saves just one life, then we have already won,” Pon said. 

He also hopes that the hackathon will improve interactions between the blockchain and AI communities.

The hackathon has welcomed nearly 800 registrations in four different tracks since launching last month. Projects have ranged from coronavirus contact tracking apps, drone delivery, and platforms focused on combating fake news. 

Detect Now, for example, is an AI-based app that helps to identify if users have the virus by analyzing their cough’s sound. Another project, CivicTechHub, seeks to corral all of the projects working to ease the pandemic. This way, developers don’t waste resources pursuing the same ideas over and over. 

The four tracks include Medicine and Epidemiology, Data Privacy and Sovereignty, Informational and Coping Tools, and Open Innovation.  

A panel of 16 judges from relevant fields will grade submissions and award up to $50,000 in Ocean tokens (OCEAN) to the most promising project. Experts include technologists and medical practitioners, according to Pon. 

“We asked medical professionals about what they needed and what would help them serve patients. This is in part how we identified each of the four tracks,” he said.

The event concludes on June 1, and winners will be announced on June 7.

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