CodeTheCurve: A blockchain-based supply chain solution to address PPE shortages

CodeTheCurve: A blockchain-based supply chain solution to address PPE shortages

See how one team's submission to the CodeTheCurve global hackathon was designed to support health care workers on the front lines of the global pandemic. This past April, creative techies from all over the world gathered online for CodeTheCurve, a five-day virtual hackathon organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in partnership with IBM and SAP.

This past April, creative techies from all over the world gathered online for CodeTheCurve, a five-day virtual hackathon organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in partnership with IBM and SAP. Participants all worked toward the goal of creating digital solutions to address the global pandemic.

Our team focused on the goal of improving the efficiency of the personal protective equipment (PPE) supply chain in order to prevent shortages for health care workers. With the rise of the current global pandemic, supplies of medical equipment have become more critical, particularly PPE for medical workers. In many places, PPE shortages have been a serious problem. To address this challenge, we proposed that a blockchain-based supply chain could help make this process faster and more reliable, thereby connecting health ministries, hospitals, producers, and banks, and making it easier to track and report information on supplies.

Figure 1. Our hackathon team

Our hackathon team: Mehmet Alp Sümer, Simge Helvaci, Ertugrul Batur, and Mustafa Mert Askaroglu

The hackathon was organized around three specific themes:

  • Ensure continued learning
  • Data management and information
  • The present and the future — societal and health issues

We competed under the data management and information theme.

This short video describes and demonstrates our solution.

Defining the problem

With the rise of COVID-19, the supply of PPE has become more critical than ever. Health care workers are on the front lines of this war, which puts them at high risk of exposure to the virus. The strain on the supply has been exacerbated by a huge spike in demand for the same items from the general public. This has led to shortages of basic PPE for medical staff — those most at risk. And if we can’t protect health care workers, how will they protect us?

Our proposed solution

We focused specifically on these three aspects of the PPE supply chain:

  • Establishing the PPE stocks
  • Determining the PPE needs of hospitals
  • Shipping the PPE

Our goal was to accelerate each of these processes by creating a more organized and transparent supply chain environment. Our proposed solution was a blockchain-based PPE supply chain network. Blockchain technology enables you to have distributed ledgers, and it creates an environment of trust without requiring input from third-party organizations. A blockchain network that includes hospitals, health ministries, producers, and banks can be built to accelerate information sharing and transparency. Let’s take a look at how this system can be used to support each step in the supply chain.

The first step in the supply chain, discovering the PPE stocks, can be improved through disintermediation and the use of distributed ledgers. All of the producers in the blockchain network are able to share their stocks, which means that ministries and hospitals can display the current stocks of the PPE producers immediately on the system. This can significantly reduce communication time between organizations.

In addition, the PPE needs of hospitals can be easily monitored by the ministry of health, which enables the ministry to organize their PPE purchase operations to be more efficient and effective. Plus, this helps decrease communication time between hospitals and the health ministry.

Moreover, all of the purchase operations and deliveries of stocks can be monitored by the network participants. Accordingly, hospitals and the ministry of health can easily follow the delivery status of the PPE, thereby enabling a transparent supply environment.

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