It's hard to find legitimate use cases for blockchain technology
What it does
This system is designed to address two problems:
Often (especially in rural and developing regions) emergency medical services like 911 simply can't arrive in time. When a sudden emergency occurs, fast help is often the difference between life and death.
When 911 does arrive, they don't have very much information about you. Your medications, allergies, conditions, emergency contacts – information that could help them save your life, but isn't often available.
To address these issues, we propose a permissioned blockchain network designed to connect individuals with confirmed first responder training (EMTs, doctors, nurses, ...) who happen to be extremely nearby when an emergency situation occurs. Many of these responders will be willing to be notified even in the middle of the night if they could save a life in jeopardy if they're only 10 blocks away.
The system will additionally support the delivery of emergency medical data, curated (and optionally stored) by potential patients themselves to both official emergency services and the nearby first responders (once they have published a transaction stating that they are nearby and en route to help).
How we built it
The ethereum-based, private network is secured by validator nodes run by hospitals, physicians, EMSs, fire departments, etc: organizations we know have a vested interest in preserving human life (even the pessimistic must agree they are incentivized because they rely on living humans for revenue). They validate transactions, approve new validators, and authorize first responders.
We use IoT devices (phone accelerometers/gyroscopes, wearables, etc) to detect potential emergencies and send a notification asking the recipient to confirm they are OK. If they don't, we immediately contact the closest official emergency responder service (911) and additionally launch a transaction on the blockchain. This component – the accident detection service – can either be run on a private cloud server paid for by the potential patient or run by a validator node or external third party as a SaaS.
Once an emergency is in process, first responders will be notified via a mobile app (either through a push notification sent by the validator who authorized the first responder to join the network, or by running a custom mobile light client) if the emergency is within their configured range. They can choose to respond, which involves publishing their location, intent, public key, and optional contact data. Once a responder is confirmed, the patient's emergency medical data will be encrypted with the responders public key by the accident detection service and delivered to the responder as they approach the patient.
Challenges we ran into
Scope creep was a big one. It was hard not to try to build everything and then some. This was an extremely interesting use case to develop and we hope people who see its value will reach out to us to discuss it further. Also our front-end guys took this opportunity to learn react-native for the first time (great job X!)
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We believe this is both a legitimate use of blockchain technology (as the centralized version of this service would be hugely invasive for both patients and responders, and would present and extremely high-value target for malicious actors) and a good example of a use case that can only succeed on a permissioned chain as the geo-coordinates of an incapacitated victim could be easily exploited by malicious individuals for their own morbid gain if they were published on a publicly-accessible network.
What we learned
First and foremost: The ethereum community really needs some robust light clients. Also, discussion of this use case really convinced us that easily-managed-by-grandma private cloud server applications need to exist, and need to be easy to create. We're excited in particular about finding a way to do this securely, safely, and with compelling use cases.
What's next for EmergencyChain
That's up to the world at large. Like most blockchain applications, this requires broad support at least in certain locations to offer real utility