The Austrian government has allocated $26 million to support COVID-fighting startups, with one blockchain-related venture in line for a share of the funds.
QualiSig was developed by A-Trust GmbH, the Austrian Trust Center responsible for managing the digital identities of domestic citizens. Research institute Donau-Universität Krems and software company Jelurida were also heavily involved in bringing the solution to fruition.
The project received a €60,000 grant from the Austrian Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation, and Technology and the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs, to be built on Jelurida’s Ardor blockchain. Ardor’s blockchain is notable for its proof-of-stake algorithm, multi-chain architecture, and smart contract usage. A security solution for digital communications, QualiSig combines blockchain technologies and verified digital signatures to ensure personal data relating to COVID-19 testing remains secure.
As part of efforts to address fake news permeating the pandemic, QualiSig permits the publication of verifiable information whose text cannot be altered, only updated, with a signature required before such amendments are approved.
Helping Key Workers while Ensuring Data Privacy
Following two funding rounds and 132 applications, QualiSig was one of 45 entries selected for investment, alongside projects concerned with vaccines, diagnostic tools, and protective materials such as masks, air filters, and respirators.
Dubbed a “security system for electronic data traffic,” QualiSig was the only funded project in the infosec category. Potential applications include enabling key workers to perform critical tasks such as door-to-door blood tests and unannounced PCR tests in areas where COVID-19 cases have spiked. Testers can identify themselves using a unique QR code while digital communications between authorities and citizens will be secured thanks to the integration of Ardor.
QualiSig is designed to guarantee citizens a higher degree of security in the context of COVID-19 prevention and control. In total, three prototypes will be created to achieve this objective. The first will facilitate communication between citizens and governments or institutions working on their behalf. Sensitive data such as requests for COVID-19 PCR and/or antibody tests, test date scheduling, and the transmission of results will be protected from third-party inference.
The second prototype, as described above, will provide the interface by which the identity of door-to-door test personnel can be confirmed. Thanks to this application, householders will be able to use their smartphone to confirm the legitimacy of such approaches. These measures are designed to provide peace of mind and massively reduce the ability of fraudsters to take advantage of enforced lockdowns.
Test subjects can confirm test authorization using signed digital tokens, wherein their private information is encrypted. These non-tradable utility tokens rely upon the Ignis blockchain, part of Ardor’s distributed ecosystem.
A third prototype will create a secure digital archive for the verification of citizens’ health status (e.g. antibody evidence), with the highest possible level of data protection assured. Such proof-of-health-status certificates could be required for future international travel, sporting events, concerts, conferences and festivals.
Although QualiSig was developed to assist COVID relief efforts, its usability beyond the current situation is obvious: not only might verified message signatures help tackle the scourge of fake news, but sensitive communications between authorities and citizens could be made more secure. Because the system is open to all eIDAS compliant signatures, QualiSig may eventually be deployed throughout the EU. At present, it is due to go live in August and run for eight months.
This is not the first time Jelurida’s blockchain ecosystem has been utilized as a part of an Austrian project. Last month, the Austrian Institute of Technology announced the launch of HotCity, a concept that gamifies the crowdsourcing of hotspots and channels them to supply public heating. Like QualiSig, the proof-of-concept uses the Ignis blockchain to both secure data and make it private. With a pilot having been delayed by the COVID-19 outbreak, the project is set to be tested in Vienna and Graz in October.