Published: 16th March 2020
This app by VIT and Ramaiah students can 'cure' the world's $200 billion fake meds problem
The students participated in hackathons, worked on common projects, and have complementary skills which make them a well-rounded team
A three-member team from India has made us proud as they emerged as the runner up at this year’s Microsoft Imagine Cup Asia finals organised by Microsoft. Following an intense finale showdown against nine other teams from across the region, Team Blume, together with fellow runner up teams, Tulibot from Indonesia and Zest from Singapore, are the runners-up for the event and have won USD 2,500 each for their projects. Team Blume developed an Android application that allows patients to scan the RFID tag on prescription medication to ensure its authenticity and allergen-compatibility with the patient.
The team has students from the Vellore Institute of Technology and the Ramaiah Institute of Technology who met through college connections. They have participated in hackathons, worked on common projects, and have complementary skills which make them a well-rounded team. The team includes VR Karthik, an Android Developer with a knack for blockchain development, Hemant Joshi, a backend programmer whose core skills are website and blockchain development, and Hemant H Kumar, an electronics enthusiast with a passion for UI/UX Design, Video Making and Marketing. Here's an excerpt from a tete-a-tete with the team:
What was the most challenging part of the coding of the app? How does it work?
Our product includes both desktop and mobile applications, and the most challenging part of the app was to bind the access control of various stakeholders to the blockchain. A platform-agnostic OAuth service is used to authenticate every stakeholder, and a unique NFC (Near Field Communication) tag identifies every medicine. We have also included an electronic NFC reader setup for those who prefer using a desktop. The UX experience of using the product was given maximum emphasis, with multiple tests conducted by our potential end-users. Additionally, we exposed all of this functionality in the form of an API, thus allowing for these features to be integrated into existing supply chains.
How do you think your app can help the common man in India?
Being valued at USD 200 billion annually (according to Sanofi and the WEC), counterfeit drugs are a global epidemic. Narrowing this unfavorable phenomenon down to a local context, we find WHO stating that 35 per cent of all fake drugs sold globally come from India. Our application helps individuals check for themselves if a drug is counterfeit or not, by using a simple, easy-to-use mobile application. Each medicine strip is embedded with an NFC tag that uniquely identifies it. Our mobile app then scans this NFC tag and verifies the authenticity of the drug. All of this is possible by using blockchain to implement a secure supply chain management system. Thus, it introduces more drug safety into the market, potentially impacting every person in India.
What are your plans going forward? What areas would you like to work on?
We would like to get this idea out into the world, to prove that a simple application like this can solve real world problems such as counterfeit drugs, especially in India. Ideally, we would like to see this application implemented successfully in our country. Additionally, while performing field research and market analysis, we stumbled upon numerous use cases for our product that we initially had not thought of. One of the main applications for pharmacies and warehouses was stock-keeping, with NFC tagging makes it easier for these entities to handle their inventory efficiently. Efficient distribution of medicines reduces losses incurred due to destruction of expired drugs, which sums up to INR 500 crore annually (according to Confederation of Indian Pharmaceutical Industry).
How does participating in contests like these help a student?
The rise of hackathons, project showcases, etc. across all age groups, even from the school level, encourage students to learn more about the world around them. Motivating students to think beyond the textbook is vital for the next generation of innovations to become a reality. These competitions spark the innovative spirit amongst the student community. Just looking at Microsoft Imagine Cup, every year, several impactful and profound problems we face in the world today are tackled by young students. Such competitions give us, as students, confidence in our ideas and products, and motivate us to move ahead with making our technology beneficial for the masses.