This IBM Scientist Wants You To Take The Bus

Emmanuel 2Emmanuel Delamarche thinks public transportation is going to save the planet. And not only because it’s the environmentally responsible way to travel.

But let’s back this story up a bit: Emmanuel, manager of precision diagnostics in IBM Research – Zurich, was disturbed by the global rise in counterfeit diagnostic tests that had started flooding the mobile health market. Fake tests for things like HIV, Dengue fever and malaria. Fake tests that could radically compromise efforts to detect, treat and control the spread of infectious diseases.

“Broad usage and simple designs make it easy for counterfeiters to forge rapid diagnostic tests. But I have the luxury of devoting research time to finding solutions to these kinds of problems.”

Emmanuel and his team explored the idea of adding physical security features to available tests. Something that went beyond applying product numbers and bar codes to packaging, which doesn’t go far enough to keep fake tests off the black market.

Crypto Anchors integrate security codes inside diagnostic devices and link this code to digital records that track the history of the device. Such codes are simple enough for mass manufacturing, but make it more difficult for bad guys make and distribute fake tests.

“My idea was to find a way to insert optically active chemical tracers in the testing device itself.” But without a solid IT infrastructure and methodology for verifying the authenticity of tests, the idea stalled. Like a car without gas.

Which brings us back to public transportation. “Bus 156 came to the rescue. On one very memorable day, I ran into Andreas Kind, a manager of industry platforms and blockchain in IBM, on this bus.” The two got to talking about fake diagnostics. “In less than a minute it became obvious that we should combine physical security markers with blockchain technology and secure transactions.”

Together, Emmanuel and Andreas have filed several patent disclosures and coined the term Crypto Anchors to describe their potentially life-saving security feature.

Emmanuel has advice for anyone who wants to solve the big problems of the world: “Persevere. And definitely take public transportation.”

Emmanuel Delamarche is a Senior Scientist at IBM, and is the manager for Precision Diagnostics in the IBM Research Lab in Zurich, Switzerland.

The IBM Patent Leadership series marks IBM’s 25th consecutive year leading in patent grants. The series consists of innovation stories from remarkable IBMers who help make this company what it is and has been for over a century: a collection of inquisitive, restless, determined humans who drive the culture of innovation within and beyond our walls.

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