Digital vaccine passports have quickly been integrated into our lives. For those 82 per cent of eligible Canadians who are double-vaccinated, the QR codes associated with them hasten a return to a life that may feel almost normal. As a rapidly deployed solution to help recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital vaccine passports are a smart tool in the public health arsenal.
They are new, though, and as with any fresh technology, future iterations are already in the works to improve on design and functionality. For governments and agencies that are responsible for getting vaccination data into the hands of the 31.4 million Canadians who own a smartphone, the next challenge becomes addressing the concerns that surround the vulnerability and lack of protection of that data.
Blockchain has emerged as the technology that can provide greater security for health records and remove the risk of fraud. “Whether you are pro-vaccine or not, everyone should be pro-data privacy. Blockchain empowers members of the public to own their vaccination records,” says Justin Pauly, a Wisconsin-based entrepreneur, who is the executive director of international affairs and co-founder of VX Pass, a company whose blockchain-enabled applications allow for strict data privacy. “With blockchain, you have a technology that is better at securing your data than traditional government servers because you can’t unlink someone from their identification and separate them from their medical record on a server. You can do that with blockchain.”
VX Pass is one of TAAL’s newest clients as the company brings its blockchain technology solutions to the health and life sciences space.
Public blockchains have an immutable trail of records. All information is encrypted on each user’s private digital key that is inside a mobile device. The private key will keep all locally stored information in it locked and inaccessible without the owner’s permission. The information will only be decrypted by the user, who can control when to provide access to someone who seeks to confirm other information, such as which vaccine brand was used for inoculation, medical history and allergies.
With blockchain, the chief privacy concerns of vaccine-passport detractors – who are wary of authorities or third-party companies gaining or commoditizing sensitive user data – are neutralized, Mr. Pauly pointed out during the recent CoinGeek New York Conference.
“My company, VX Pass, doesn’t own any data,” he explains. “If someone attempted to steal the medical records of our users from us, I absolutely could never allow that. Those records don’t belong to me, they belong to the user. We allow you to have anything you want to own and keep it with you without worrying that it could be compromised – that’s what our job is.”
Mr. Pauly adds that Canadian health authorities have communicated with VX Pass on the feasibility of implementing its vaccine-passport technology. The company is actively speaking with governments around the world and has contracts with multiple government agencies and organizations.
Executive Director of International Affairs and Co-founder of VX Pass
Mr. Pauly envisions a future where smartphone cameras capture QR (or “quick response”) codes that show data stored on the blockchain that is fully controlled by the user.
At the heart of what VX Pass does are two entities: BitcoinSV (BSV), the most scalable blockchain in the world, and TAAL, the Toronto-headquartered transaction processing and blockchain infrastructure company that allows companies like VX Pass to provide low-cost breakthrough solutions that can limit corporate and government ownership of private data – and much more.
As the single source of truth for all of an individual’s medical history and records stored on chain, patients can retrieve their data when it’s needed, wherever it’s needed. A patient travelling abroad can allow doctors and practitioners anywhere in the world to access information that could help in diagnosis or treatment.
“We did a ton of research before we chose a blockchain to build on, and every day we’re thankful that we picked BSV,” Mr. Pauly says. “We can change the world because scale on BSV is unbounded, and it is quick and it always works. Oh, and it’s cheap. We charge under $1 (US) to store your medical records. Nothing in health care costs less than $1 here in the U.S. Then you have TAAL, which provides the infrastructure to keep the BSV eco-system going. Without TAAL, VX Pass is sunk.”
While digital vaccine passports are a critical area of use for blockchain technology, they’re far from the only application. TAAL’s solutions work for myriad industries, including finance, e-gaming, art and media, food supply and dozens more.
The key to the company’s success is its transaction processing operation. It is the largest BSV transaction processor in the world, ensuring the data that companies send to the blockchain are managed, keeping those immutable transactions rolling.
In recent months, the increase in usage on the network has been dramatic. Most days in January 2021 saw fewer than 100,000 transactions. Now, there are routinely greater than one million transactions per day. Daily transactions processed on the BSV network frequently account for more than one million gigabytes of data, and TAAL is often responsible for ensuring that 60 per cent of this volume reaches the blockchain.
On March 14, TAAL mined a world-record 638-megabyte block – comprised of 2,674 transactions, including several large mixed-media files. In June, the company purchased 3,000 new blockchain computers as it prepared to meet demand at scale. With BSV’s continued ascendancy as the blockchain of choice for enterprises and government agencies, TAAL needed more computing power. Its added machines represent a total of 300 PH/s (or 300 quadrillion per second) of processing capability. Two months after that purchase, the company topped its own mark with a 2.2-gigabyte block of transactions – a feat thought to be impossible just two years ago.
By comparison, the ethereum network has struggled with its inability to provide scale to its developers. Ethereum’s maximum block size is about 15 megabytes and the maximum transaction size is approximately 60 kilobytes – minuscule numbers compared to BSV.
BSV’s scalability is the key reason why its network is among the most environmentally friendly blockchains in the world, with an energy consumption rate of less than 1 per cent of the well-known bitcoin network.
TAAL is the first publicly listed and regulated company that facilitates businesses building applications and contributing data onto a public and scalable blockchain. Trading on the Canadian Stock Exchange under TAAL, the company has 55 employees and is growing fast, with offices in Toronto, Vancouver and Switzerland.
While blockchain technology is most widely associated with cryptocurrency, TAAL is focused to be a utility that can democratize global finance and bring opportunities to large numbers of people who live without access.
As Mr. Pauly notes, TAAL’s positive impact for his health-care focused business is a microcosm for the value the company can bring to many global enterprises.
“We will have brought medical freedom to eight billion people by the time we’re done,” he says of VX Pass. “Without what TAAL does, that can’t possibly happen.”
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.