Welcome to this week’s blockchain round-up, where we delve into headline-making uses of blockchain technology.

Blockchain and IoT data for building safety

Seoul’s metropolitan government and a consortium of businesses will be using IoT (internet of things) data and blockchain technology to monitor old and potentially hazardous buildings.

IoT sensors positioned on walls will monitor variables like large cracks and the slope of old buildings. This data is then saved to a blockchain and analysed later. By having this information recorded on a blockchain the government can provide verifiable and objective data in case of accidents, disputes or legislation.

The initiative will commence at the end of 2021 where a pilot of 46 buildings will be fitted with IoT devices and monitored from a dashboard. If successful, the program will be scaled up to 824 buildings in 2022 and will include buildings that are over thirty years old or are deemed hazardous or vulnerable to disasters.

Screenshot showing the building status dashboard
Building status dashboard: Seoul Metropolitan Government

Right now, city staff have to manually attend a building’s premises to carry out safety inspections, but the new system will send automatic alerts when risks are detected, improving safety and reducing the instances of accidents.

El Salvador becomes the first country to make bitcoin legal tender

In just three months bitcoin will become legal tender in El Salvador after legislation was passed earlier last week.

Tweet from Nayib Bukele showing a screenshot of El Salvador's bitcoin law with the text "I've just sent the "BitcoinLaw to Congress"

Citizens will be able to use Bitcoin for any transaction, including taxes, debt repayments and goods and services. The law states that all businesses must accept the cryptocurrency unless they do not have the technology to do so. The US dollar, which until now, has been El Salvador’s only form of currency will be kept and used as a “reference currency” for accounting purposes. The legislation states that citizens should be able to convert between the two currencies at any time.

President Nayib Bukele is championing the cryptocurrency as a means to promote financial inclusion and economic development in the country.

“This will generate jobs and help provide financial inclusion to thousands outside the formal economy, and in the medium and long term we hope that this small decision can help us push humanity at least a tiny bit into the right direction.”

Nayib Bukele

However, there are doubts from human rights groups and academics on whether the move will create long-term benefits to the impoverished parts of El Salvador’s population.

The Guardian cited comments from David Morales, of the Cristosal human rights group, describing the legislation as “political marketing”. He contrasted the government’s efficiency in passing the law with its refusal to consider legislation guaranteeing water rights or making reforms to El Salvador’s draconian abortion laws.

Other parties put forth the notion that most Salvadorians would not have the technical capacity or the technology available to use bitcoin.

The move by El Salvador could be a catalyst for the widespread adoption of bitcoin and will be closely monitored by the rest of the world.

Blockchain + IVF

Renji Hospital, based in Shanghai, has launched an IVF application called MyBaby. The hospital partnered with blockchain platform VeChain and accredited registrar and classification society DNV, combining professional assurance services with blockchain technology.

Screenshots showing the IVF MyBaby app interface
MyBaby App Interface – VeChain

The IVF app lets users verify key steps in the in-vitro fertilisation process. This includes the extraction, labelling and scoring of fertilised eggs, as well as the cultivation and preservation of embryos. All information, imagery and data trails are securely uploaded to the blockchain and are accessible only to authorised users of the MyBaby app.

In a joint statement, the companies cited the security and data accessibility available to prospective parents undergoing IVF treatment.

“The cryptographically secured properties of blockchain technology create a secure and reliable environment and enhance the user experience in a way that is unprecedented in the IVF field.”