IoT early warning system aimed at curbing future virus outbreaks

IoT blockchain and cryptographic specialist WISeKey says it's making progress on a system that could detect new virus spread and automatically advise regional lockdowns.

OKAY hand sign amid COVID-19 coronovirus morphology
Rawpixel / HwangMangjoo (CC0)

IoT sensors that monitor body temperature, in real-time and implemented at scale, could provide geolocation data that would allow potential quarantine areas to be rapidly identified, perhaps even instantaneously. The idea is to shut down emerging viruses before a pandemic could take hold.

IoT security firm WISeKey says it's working on such a solution. "Using the network of billions of interconnected smart IoT sensors, we can detect the spread of viruses by combining the anonymized digital identity with the behavior of a person," WISeKey said in a press release. Importantly, the company claims its solution can be fully secured and trusted. 

The biggest problem with such a setup isn't gaining a user base or adoption—there is plenty of IoT out there, and it continues to grow. (WISeKey says it has an installed base of more than 1.5 billion microchips.) Rather, the problem is one of location privacy, and medical records privacy. How does one monitor individual human behavior, such as where a person travels, and at the same time secure an individual's medical dataset across borders, and at the same time enable rapid device implementation globally, without compromising that privacy?

The IoT and cybersecurity firm, with offices in Switzerland, France and Japan, said the solution is incorporating better, more robust IoT security, including the use of blockchain and artificial intelligence.

WISeKey's idea is for IoT sensors to be distributed amongst the public, along with an app it calls WIShelter. The combo measures human temperature and provides geolocation data. That data would then be analyzed, at scale, and used to identify emerging viral hot spots.

Development is underway, and a device has been built: An RSL10 and N34TS108 temperature sensor from ON Semiconductor has been added to Tatwah's BLE IT-005 IP68 class, low-power Bluetooth beacon. That, in-turn, is combined with WISeKey's VaultIC407—an IoT security kit that includes a mounted, Small Outline Integrated Circuit with cryptographic services and algorithms along with password and certificate-based authentication, plus chip attack and tamper resistance.

Collected data from the device would be relayed to a local communication gateway at an individual's home, and then sent on to a Health Delivery Organization (HDO) server, via a 5G network, the company says. Presumably, other networks could be used too. Cryptographic keys will protect the HDO server data, and WISeKey blockchain technology will be used to make the data ubiquitously available, for analysis, through secured distributed ledgers. WISeKey said its VaultC407 module's technology is already used in national health ID cards.

"The IoT will live up to its promise only if the connected devices, the data they generate, the business applications that control these devices and the services around them, can be fully secured and trusted," the company said in its statement.

WISeKey's Foresight IoT Early Warning System, as it's called, using its IoT security tools, is being developed with partners that include IBM, Microsoft, AWS, SAP and others, according to the company.

"There is an urgent need to fundamentally rethink the security stack for the IoT cloud. IoT-enabled services and products will generate vast amounts of data which, when well-analyzed, will be very valuable," WISeKey said.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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