Due to the unprecedented global pandemic which significantly affected all industries, companies needed to develop innovative solutions in order to adapt and survive. In this five-part series, we examine how the top technology trends forecasted for 2020 have shifted in the fight against COVID-19 to help the world adapt to the new normal.

Previously, we outlined how the billions of interconnected devices supported by IoT technology provide a wealth of information that could aid in tracking and predicting possible outbreaks. In this article, we discuss how the mass of data collected could be analyzed through big data analytics technologies and how this data could be protected through blockchain-based solutions.

Data Analytics/Prescriptive Analytics

In a 2017 report from the Economist, data was touted as the new “oil” in terms of most valuable commodity; however, this value depended on the extraction of meaningful information that could be applied to intelligent business decisions and action plans. Big data analytics examines large and varied data sets to enhance understanding of trends through pattern recognition. In addition to gaining insight on patterns and correlations present in big data, data analytics can facilitate modeling, project future patterns, and recommend optimal solutions based on knowledge gained from the data (I.e. provide prescriptive analytics).

As COVID-19 began to spread all over the world, health officials turned to data-driven technology to determine the specific regions where the virus would likely emerge. In addition to the massive data sourced from the billions of IoT devices, other sources such as social and news media, medical-based research, and hospital records provided the necessary information to create a coronavirus dashboard showing the spread of the virus across the globe. Statistical and health experts applied spatial autocorrelation to the above data sources in combination with demographic and transportation information in order to determine areas and populations that had increased susceptibility to the virus.

Due to the sensitive nature of healthcare information, further tools are necessary to securely handle the data and maintain transparency and public trust. To this end, blockchain-based solutions are seen as a viable technology to ensure data security.

Blockchain technology

Blockchain technology is a growing and distributed digital ledger developed in 2008 to serve as a public transaction ledger for cryptocurrency. However, recent trends have made this technology relevant beyond cryptocurrency, especially for use in industries that involve large volumes of records such as healthcare.

By design, blockchain offers improved security as data in the open and distributed ledger cannot be altered retroactively without a network majority consensus. This security allows for real-time data to be exchanged between the World Health Organization, the Health Departments of various countries, and other relevant organizations in a secure, transparent, and immutable manner.

However, performing big data analytics and maintaining blockchain networks are resource-intensive processes. In addition, real-time processing is critical when dealing with COVID-19 data. To overcome these issues, network infrastructures that provide high system capacity and massive device connectivity are desired.

In the next article in our series, we discuss 5G technology and its characteristic high data rates with ultra-low latency (less than millisecond delay), which provides the ability to translate big data into real-time accurate insights.