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Blockchain to the Rescue: We Can Be Much Better at Weathering Natural Disasters

Feature Article | October 31, 2017 by Susan Galer

As a massive hurricane devastates the city, first responders are immediately bringing life-saving medical attention, food, water, fuel and other resources to victims in real-time, hiring suppliers with the best prices to deliver items to the exact locations where people need it most.

Contrary to some real-life events in the news lately, this is not wishful thinking. It’s a humanitarian relief scenario made entirely possible by the blockchain technology demo I saw at the recent SAP TechEd event in this video interview with Torsten Zube, Blockchain lead at the SAP Innovation Center Network.

Bringing Help Where It’s Needed Most

Called the “pooling and sharing” scenario, this blockchain POC offers a fundamentally disruptive approach to quickly mobilize public and private organizations when disaster strikes. Often the problem lies not so much in the lack of resources available to help, but in the logistics to efficiently direct and deliver that support to the right places.

“Blockchain’s trusted, decentralized transparency across numerous parties – government officials, community organizers, vendors, utilities, health care providers ­– makes it perfectly suited to help align citizen demands for relief with the most readily available supplies,” said Zube. “It’s a very simple way to bring help to where it’s needed most. Giving everyone involved the ability to write and read data on an open source platform speeds up disaster relief to a whole new level.”

During natural disasters, blockchain can bring life-saving transparency to humanitarian relief missions

Essentially operating as an ad hoc supply chain network on a mobile app, this blockchain example connected suppliers of clean drinking water with helicopter pilots to schedule deliveries at specific locations within certain timeframes. Smart contract technology determined which offer was the best one based on community needs, triggering acceptance of the offer, and setting in motion the delivery through confirmation.

“We’re exploring a system of record, built from scratch and outside of any existing application, that everyone can use right away to help alleviate problems faster,” said Zube.

Blockchain can’t prevent natural disasters, but it’s top of mind as a solution right now when millions of people are struggling with this season’s record breaking natural disasters.

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