Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, October 18, 2021

IBM, Moderna to Use AI, Hybrid Cloud to Track COVID-19 Vaccine Supply 

Seeking ways to boost vaccinations against COVID-19, IBM and vaccine developer Moderna will leverage AI, hybrid cloud and other technologies to address nagging supply chain and distribution challenges.

The partners said this week they would develop open and standard approaches to “improve supply chain visibility” with the goal of achieving a real-time capability for tracking vaccine distribution. The supply chain effort addresses vaccine distribution failures around the country as demand exceeds supply, resulting in canceled appointments and other delays.

Initial efforts would focus on vaccine management, including near real-time tracing of shipments to anticipate potential supply chain disruptions, the partners added. A data distribution scheme would allow public health officials and healthcare providers to share information on individual vaccine shipments across the supply chain from manufacturing facilities to vaccination sites.

“As new players enter the supply chain, open technology can help drive more transparency and bolster trust, while helping to ensure accessibility and equity in the process,” IBM noted in promoting the vaccine management effort.

Reached for comment, an IBM spokesperson provided few details of the company’s supply chain collaboration with Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA). The company’s coronavirus vaccine is based on its messenger RNA research.

In a statement, Michael Mullette, managing director of Moderna’s North America commercial operations, said: "We look forward to working with IBM to apply digital innovations to build connections between organizations, governments and individuals to instill confidence in COVID-19 vaccines."

As the pace of vaccinations gradually increases, frameworks for managing and securing healthcare credentials and personal medical records are also in demand. To that end, IBM said it would accelerate development of a digital health pass based on its blockchain technology.

Blockchain is promoted as a way to digitize transactions through a secure, distributed ledger. IBM’s approach would, for example, help organizations verify health credentials for employees, students and travelers as businesses and schools seek to reopen. The mobile app would include health data such as COVID-19 test results and temperature scans.

Those efforts mirror successful public health initiatives in Taiwan, which has so far limited to nine the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

IBM is also promoting a pilot project with the State of New York to develop a health application based on its blockchain technology. The company (NYSE: IBM) announced earlier this week it would work with state officials to launch digital health passes initially to be used at New York City sports venues. The encrypted digital wallet app confirms the user’s vaccination or recent negative COVID test without revealing underlying medical or personal information.

The confidential data transfer platform was first tested in late February at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

The prototype was built on IBM’s blockchain-based platform that enables secure verification of health credentials.

"This solution can provide New York and other states a simple, secure and voluntary method for showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test result or certification of vaccination,” Steve LaFleche, general manager of IBM’s public and federal market unit, said in a statement.

New York state officials said they expect to expand the wallet app to other sports venues, theaters and businesses as the pace of vaccinations accelerates.

 

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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