Accelerating Health Data Sharing: A Solution Based on the Internet of Things and Distributed Ledger Technologies

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Background: Huge amounts of health-related data are generated every moment with the rapid development of Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable technologies. These big health data contain great value and can bring benefit to all stakeholders in the health care ecosystem. Currently, most of these data are siloed and fragmented in different health care systems or public and private databases. It prevents the fulfillment of intelligent health care inspired by these big data. Security and privacy concerns and the lack of ensured authenticity trails of data bring even more obstacles to health data sharing. With a decentralized and consensus-driven nature, distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) provide reliable solutions such as blockchain, Ethereum, and IOTA Tangle to facilitate the health care data sharing.Objective: This study aimed to develop a health-related data sharing system by integrating IoT and DLT to enable secure, fee-less, tamper-resistant, highly-scalable, and granularly-controllable health data exchange, as well as build a prototype and conduct experiments to verify the feasibility of the proposed solution.Methods: The health-related data are generated by 2 types of IoT devices: wearable devices and stationary air quality sensors. The data sharing mechanism is enabled by IOTA’s distributed ledger, the Tangle, which is a directed acyclic graph. Masked Authenticated Messaging (MAM) is adopted to facilitate data communications among different parties. Merkle Hash Tree is used for data encryption and verification.Results: A prototype system was built according to the proposed solution. It uses a smartwatch and multiple air sensors as the sensing layer; a smartphone and a single-board computer (Raspberry Pi) as the gateway; and a local server for data publishing. The prototype was applied to the remote diagnosis of tremor disease. The results proved that the solution could enable costless data integrity and flexible access management during data sharing.Conclusions: DLT integrated with IoT technologies could greatly improve the health-related data sharing. The proposed solution based on IOTA Tangle and MAM could overcome many challenges faced by other traditional blockchain-based solutions in terms of cost, efficiency, scalability, and flexibility in data access management. This study also showed the possibility of fully decentralized health data sharing by replacing the local server with edge computing devices.

Publication information

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13583
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number6
Number of pages12
StatePublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • Internet of Things, Distributed ledger technologies, Data sharing, Health information interoperability, IOTA Tangle, Masked authenticated messaging, Blockchain, Intelligent healthcare

ID: 57699311