Zero Knowledge Proofs in Healthcare Data Sharing

Srinivasan Sundararajan

Recap of Healthcare Data Sharing

In my previous article (https://www.gavstech.com/healthcare-data-sharing/), I had elaborated on the challenges of Patient Master Data Management, Patient 360, and associated Patient Data Sharing. I had also outlined how our Rhodium framework is positioned to address the challenges of Patient Data Management and data sharing using a combination of multi-modal databases and Blockchain.

In this context, I have highlighted our maturity levels and the journey of Patient Data Sharing as follows:

  • Single Hospital
  • Between Hospitals part of HIE (Health Information Exchange)
  • Between Hospitals and Patients
  • Between Hospitals, Patients, and Other External Stakeholders

In each of the stages of the journey, I have highlighted various use cases. For example, in the third level of health data sharing between Hospitals and Patients, the use cases of consent management involving patients as well as monetization of personal data by patients themselves are mentioned.

In the fourth level of the journey, you must’ve read about the use case “Zero Knowledge Proofs”. In this article, I would be elaborating on:

  • What is Zero Knowledge Proof (ZKP)?
  • What is its role and importance in Healthcare Data Sharing?
  • How Blockchain Powered GAVS Rhodium Platform helps address the needs of ZKP?

Introduction to Zero Knowledge Proof

As the name suggests, Zero Knowledge Proof is about proving something without revealing the data behind that proof. Each transaction has a ‘verifier’ and a ‘prover’. In a transaction using ZKPs, the prover attempts to prove something to the verifier without revealing any other details to the verifier.

Zero Knowledge Proofs in Healthcare 

In today’s healthcare industry, a lot of time-consuming due diligence is done based on a lack of trust.

  • Insurance companies are always wary of fraudulent claims (which is anyhow a major issue), hence a lot of documentation and details are obtained and analyzed.
  • Hospitals, at the time of patient admission, need to know more about the patient, their insurance status, payment options, etc., hence they do detailed checks.
  • Pharmacists may have to verify that the Patient is indeed advised to take the medicines and give the same to the patients.
  • Patients most times also want to make sure that the diagnosis and treatment given to them are indeed proper and no wrong diagnosis is done.
  • Patients also want to ensure that doctors have legitimate licenses with no history of malpractice or any other wrongdoing.

In a healthcare scenario, either of the parties, i.e. patient, hospital, pharmacy, insurance companies, can take on the role of a verifier, and typically patients and sometimes hospitals are the provers.

While the ZKP can be applied to any of the transactions involving the above parties, currently the research in the industry is mostly focused on patient privacy rights and ZKP initiatives target more on how much or less of information a patient (prover) can share to a verifier before getting the required service based on the assertion of that proof.

Blockchain & Zero Knowledge Proof

While I am not getting into the fundamentals of Blockchain, but the readers should understand that one of the fundamental backbones of Blockchain is trust within the context of pseudo anonymity. In other words, some of the earlier uses of Blockchain, like cryptocurrency, aim to promote trust between unknown individuals without revealing any of their personal identities, yet allowing participation in a transaction.

Some of the characteristics of the Blockchain transaction that makes it conducive for Zero Knowledge Proofs are as follows:

  • Each transaction is initiated in the form of a smart contract.
  • Smart contract instance (i.e. the particular invocation of that smart contract) has an owner i.e. the public key of the account holder who creates the same, for example, a patient’s medical record can be created and owned by the patient themselves.
  • The other party can trust that transaction as long the other party knows the public key of the initiator.
  • Some of the important aspects of an approval life cycle like validation, approval, rejection, can be delegated to other stakeholders by delegating that task to the respective public key of that stakeholder.
  • For example, if a doctor needs to approve a medical condition of a patient, the same can be delegated to the doctor and only that particular doctor can approve it.
  • The anonymity of a person can be maintained, as everyone will see only the public key and other details can be hidden.
  • Some of the approval documents can be transferred using off-chain means (outside of the blockchain), such that participants of the blockchain will only see the proof of a claim but not the details behind it.
  • Further extending the data transfer with encryption of the sender’s private/public keys can lead to more advanced use cases.

Role of Blockchain Consortium

While Zero Knowledge Proofs can be implemented in any Blockchain platform including totally uncontrolled public blockchain platforms, their usage is best realized in private Blockchain consortiums. Here the identity of all participants is known, and each participant trusts the other, but the due diligence that is needed with the actual submission of proof is avoided.

Organizations that are part of similar domains and business processes form a Blockchain Network to get business benefits of their own processes. Such a Controlled Network among the known and identified organizations is known as a Consortium Blockchain.

Illustrated view of a Consortium Blockchain Involving Multiple Other Organizations, whose access rights differ. Each member controls their own access to Blockchain Network with Cryptographic Keys.

Members typically interact with the Blockchain Network by deploying Smart Contracts (i.e. Creating) as well as accessing the existing contracts.

Current Industry Research on Zero Knowledge Proof

Zero Knowledge Proof is a new but powerful concept in building trust-based networks. While basic Blockchain platform can help to bring the concept in a trust-based manner, a lot of research is being done to come up with a truly algorithmic zero knowledge proof.

A zk-SNARK (“zero-knowledge succinct non-interactive argument of knowledge”) utilizes a concept known as a “zero-knowledge proof”. Developers have already started integrating zk-SNARKs into Ethereum Blockchain platform. Zether, which was built by a group of academics and financial technology researchers including Dan Boneh from Stanford University, uses zero-knowledge proofs.

ZKP In GAVS Rhodium

As mentioned in my previous article about Patient Data Sharing, Rhodium is a futuristic framework that aims to take the Patient Data Sharing as a journey across multiple stages, and at the advanced maturity levels Zero Knowledge Proofs definitely find a place. Healthcare organizations can start experimenting and innovating on this front.

Rhodium Patient Data Sharing Journey

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Healthcare Industry today is affected by fraud and lack of trust on one side, and on the other side growing privacy concerns of the patient. In this context, the introduction of a Zero Knowledge Proofs as part of healthcare transactions will help the industry to optimize itself and move towards seamless operations.

About the Author –

Srini is the Technology Advisor for GAVS. He is currently focused on Data Management Solutions for new-age enterprises using the combination of Multi Modal databases, Blockchain, and Data Mining. The solutions aim at data sharing within enterprises as well as with external stakeholders.

Healthcare Data Sharing

Srinivasan Sundararajan

Patient Care Redefined

The fight against the novel coronavirus has witnessed transformational changes in the way patient care is defined and managed. Proliferation of telemedicine has enabled consultations across geographies. In the current scenario, access to patients’ medical records has also assumed more importance.

The journey towards a solution also taught us that research on patient data is equally important. More the sample data about the infected patients, the better the vaccine/remedy. However, the growing concern about the privacy of patient data cannot be ignored. Moreover, patients who provide their data for medical research should also benefit from a monetary perspective, for their contributions.

The above facts basically point to the need for being able to share vital healthcare data efficiently so that patient care is improved, and more lives are saved.

The healthcare industry needs a data-sharing framework, which shares patient data but also provides much-needed controls on data ownership for various stakeholders, including the patients.

Types of Healthcare Data

  • PHR (Personal Health Record): An electronic record of health-related information on an individual that conforms to nationally recognized interoperability standards and that can be drawn from multiple sources while being managed, shared, and controlled by the individual.
  • EMR (Electronic Medical Record): Health-related information on an individual that can be created, gathered, managed, and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff within one healthcare organization. 
  • EHR (Electronic Health Record): Health-related information on an individual that conforms to nationally recognized interoperability standards and that can be created, managed and consulted by authorized clinicians and staff across more than one healthcare organization. 

In the context of large multi-specialty hospitals, EMR could also be specific to one specialist department and EHR could be the combination of information from various specialist departments in a single unified record.

Together these 3 forms of healthcare data provide a comprehensive view of a patient (patient 360), thus resulting in quicker diagnoses and personalized quality care.

Current Challenges in Sharing Healthcare Data

  • Lack of unique identity for patients prevents a single version of truth. Though there are government-issued IDs like SSN, their usage is not consistent across systems.
  • High cost and error-prone integration options with provider controlled EMR/EHR systems. While there is standardization with respect to healthcare interoperability API specifications, the effort needed for integration is high.
  • Conflict of interest in ensuring patient privacy and data integrity, while allowing data sharing. Digital ethics dictate that patient consent management take precedence while sharing their data.
  • Monetary benefits of medical research on patient data are not passed on to patients. As mentioned earlier, in today’s context analyzing existing patient information is critical to finding a cure for diseases, but there are no incentives for these patients.
  • Data stewardship, consent management, compliance needs like HIPAA, GDPR. Let’s assume a hospital specializing in heart-related issues shares a patient record with a hospital that specializes in eye care. How do we decide which portions of the patient information is owned by which hospital and how the governance is managed?
  • Lack of real-time information attributing to data quality issues and causing incorrect diagnoses.

The above list is not comprehensive but points to some of the issues that are plaguing the current healthcare data-sharing initiatives.

Blockchain for Healthcare Data Sharing

Some of the basic attributes of blockchain are mentioned below:

  • Blockchain is a distributed database, whereby each node of the database can be owned by a different stakeholder (say hospital departments) and yet all updates to the database eventually converge resulting in a distributed single version of truth.
  • Blockchain databases utilize a cryptography-based transaction processing mechanism, such that each object stored inside the database (say a patient record) can be distinctly owned by a public/private key pair and the ownership rights carry throughout the life cycle of the object (say from patient admission to discharge).
  • Blockchain transactions are carried out using smart contracts which basically attach the business rules to the underlying data, ensuring that the data is always compliant with the underlying business rules, making it even more reliable than the data available in traditional database systems.

These underlying properties of Blockchain make it a viable technology platform for healthcare data sharing, as well as to ensure data stewardship and patient privacy rights.

GAVS Rhodium Framework for Healthcare Data Sharing

GAVS has developed a framework – ‘Rhodium’, for healthcare data sharing.

This framework combines the best features of multi-modal databases (relational, nosql, graph) along with the viability of data sharing facilitated by Blockchain, to come up with a unified framework for healthcare data sharing.

The following are the high-level components (in a healthcare context) of the Rhodium framework. As you can see, each of the individual components of Rhodium play a role in healthcare information exchange at various levels.

GAVS’ Rhodium Framework for Healthcare

GAVS has also defined a maturity model for healthcare organizations for utilizing the framework towards healthcare data sharing. This model defines 4 stages of healthcare data sharing:

  • Within a Hospital 
  • Across Hospitals
  • Between Hospitals & Patients
  • Between Hospitals, Patients & Other Agencies

The below progression diagram illustrates how the framework can be extended for various stages of the life cycle, and typical use cases that are realized in each phase. Detailed explanations of various components of the Rhodium framework, and how it realizes use cases mentioned in the different stages will be covered in subsequent articles in this space.

Rhodium Patient Date Sharing Journey

Benefits of the GAVS Rhodium Framework for Healthcare Data Sharing

The following are the general foreseeable benefits of using the Rhodium framework for healthcare data sharing.

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Healthcare Industry Trends with Respect to Data Sharing

The following are some of the trends we are seeing in Healthcare Data Sharing:

  • Interoperability will drive privacy and security improvements
  • New privacy regulations will continue to come up, in addition to HIPAA
  • The ethical and legal use of AI will empower healthcare data security and privacy
  • The rest of 2020 and 2021 will be defined by the duality of data security and data integration, and providers’ ability to execute on these priorities. That, in turn, will, in many ways, determine their effectiveness
  • In addition to industry regulations like HIPAA, national data privacy standards including Europe’s GDPR, California’s Consumer Privacy Act, and New York’s SHIELD Act will further increase the impetus for providers to prioritize privacy as a critical component of quality patient care

The below documentation from the HIMSS site talks about maturity levels with respect to healthcare interoperability, which is addressed by the Rhodium framework.

Source: https://www.himss.org/what-interoperability

This framework is in its early stages of experimentation and is a prototype of how a Blockchain + Multi-Modal Database powered solution could be utilized for sharing healthcare data, that would be hugely beneficial to patients as well as healthcare providers.

About the Author –

Srini is the Technology Advisor for GAVS. He is currently focused on Data Management Solutions for new-age enterprises using the combination of Multi-Modal databases, Blockchain, and Data Mining. The solutions aim at data sharing within enterprises as well as with external stakeholders.

Design-led Organization: Creative Thinking as a Practice!

Gogul R G

This is the first article in the series of ‘Design-led organization’ writing about creative thinking as a practice in GAVS. It is the first step for the readers to explore the world of design and creativity. So, let’s get started!

First let’s see what is design thinking is all about

There is a common misconception that design thinking is new. But when you look back, people have applied a human-centric creative process to build meaningful and effective solutions. Design has been practiced for ages to build monuments, bridges, automobiles, subway systems, etc. Design is not only limited to aesthetics, it is more of a mindset to think of a solution. Design thinking is a mindset to iteratively think about a complex problem and come up with a viable solution

Thinking outside of the box can provide an innovative solution to a sticky problem. However, thinking outside of the box can be a real challenge as we naturally develop patterns of thinking that are based on the repetitive activities and commonly accessed knowledge surround ourselves. It takes something to detach away from a situation where we’re too closely involved to be able to find better possibilities.

To illustrate how a fresh way of thinking can create unexpectedly good solutions, let’s look at a famous incident. Some years ago, an incident occurred where a truck driver had tried to pass under a low bridge. But, he failed, and the truck became firmly lodged under the bridge.

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The driver was unable to continue driving through or reverse out. The struck truck caused massive traffic problems, which resulted in emergency personnel, engineers, firefighters, and truck drivers gathering to negotiate various solutions to dislodge the truck.

Emergency workers were debating whether to dismantle parts of the truck or chip away at parts of the bridge. Each of one were looking for a solution with their respective level of expertise. A boy walking by and witnessing the intense debate looked at the truck, at the bridge, then looked at the road and said, “Why not just let the air out of the tires?” to the absolute amazement of all the specialists and experts trying to resolve the issue.

When the solution was tested, the truck could drive with ease, having suffered only the damage caused by its initial attempt to pass underneath the bridge. It symbolizes the struggles we face where often the most obvious solutions are the ones hardest to come by because of the self-imposed constraints we work within.  

“Challenging our assumptions and everyday knowledge is often difficult for us humans, as we rely on building patterns of thinking in order not to have to learn everything from scratch every time.

Let’s come back to our topic “What is Design thinking?” Tim Brown, Executive Chairman of IDEO – an international design and consulting firm quoted design thinking as below.

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

Now let’s think about our truck example. A boy with his fresh mindset provides a simple solution to address a complex problem. Yeah! this is the sweet spot. Everyone is creative and capable of thinking like a designer, and out of the box, to come up with a solution. This way of inculcating design as a mindset for a solution is known as Design thinking.

Yes, you read it right, everyone is creative…

We forget that back in kindergarten, we were all creative. We all played and experimented with weird things without fear or shame. We didn’t know enough not to. The fear of social rejection is something we learned as we got older. And that’s why it’s possible to regain our creative abilities, even decades later. In the field of design and user experience, there are individuals to stick with a methodology a while, they will end up doing amazing things. They come up with break through ideas or suggestions and work creatively with a team to develop something truly innovative. They surprise themselves with the realization that they are a lot more creative than they had thought. That early success shakes up how they see themselves and makes them eager to do more.

We just need to rediscover what we already have: the capacity to imagine, or build upon, new to the world ideas.  But the real value of creativity doesn’t emerge until you are brave enough to act on those ideas.

Geshe Thupten Jinpa, who has been the Dalai Lama’s chief English translator for more than twenty years, shared an insight about the nature of creativity. Jinpa pointed out that there’s no word in the Tibetan language for ‘creativity’ or ‘being creative’. The closest translation is ‘natural’. In other words, if you want to be more creative, you should be more natural! So…be natural!

At your workplace, the complex problems can be easily sorted out when you find a solution using creativity with the mindset of design thinking. Creativity can be improved by following the below steps.

  1. Go for a walk.
  2. Play your favorite games.
  3. Move your eyes.
  4. Take a break and enjoy yourself.
  5. Congratulate yourself each time you do something well.
  6. Estimate time, distance, and money.
  7. Take a route you never have taken before.
  8. Look for images in mosaics, patterns, textures, clouds, stars…
  9. Try something you have never done before.
  10. Do a creative exercise.
  11. Start a collection (stamps, coins, art, stationery, anything you wish to collect)
  12. Watch Sci-Fi or fantasy films.
  13. Change the way you do things – there are no routine tasks, only routine way of doing things.
  14. Wear a color you do not like.
  15. Think about how they invented equipment or objects you use daily.
  16. Make a list of 10 things you think are impossible to do and then imagine how you could make each one possible.
  17. For every bad thing that happens to you, remember at least 3 good things that happened.
  18. Read something you have not read yet.
  19. Make friends with people on the other side of the world.
  20. When you have an idea, make a note of it, and later check to see if it happened.
  21. Connect a sport with your work.
  22. Try food you never tried before.
  23. Talk to grandparents and relatives and listen to their stories.
  24. Give an incorrect answer to a question.
  25. Find links between people, things, ideas, or facts.
  26. Ask children how to do something and observe their creativity.

Start doing the above-mentioned steps to inculcate a creative mindset and apply it in your day-to-day work. Companies like GE health care, Procter & Gamble, UBER practiced design thinking and implemented in their new product launches and for solving complex problems in their organizations. Be natural to be more creative! When you are more creative, you can apply design thinking for seeking any solution for a complex problem in your work.

This is the first article in the series of Design led Organization in GAVS. Keep watching this space for more articles on design and keep exploring the world of design-thinking!

References:

About the Author –

Gogul is a passionate UX designer with 8+ years of experience into designing experiences for digital channels like Enterprise apps, B2C, B2B apps, Mobile apps, Kiosk, Point of Sale, Endless aisle, telecom products. He is passionate about transforming complex problems into actionable solutions using design.

Center of Excellence – Big Data

The Big Data CoE is a team of experts that experiments and builds various cutting-edge solutions by leveraging the latest technologies, like Hadoop, Spark, Tensor-flow, and emerging open-source technologies, to deliver robust business results. A CoE is where organizations identify new technologies, learn new skills, and develop appropriate processes that are then deployed into the business to accelerate adoption.

Leveraging data to drive competitive advantage has shifted from being an option to a requirement for hyper competitive business landscape. One of the main objectives of the CoE is deciding on the right strategy for the organization to become data-driven and benefit from a world of Big Data, Analytics, Machine Learning and the Internet of Things (IoT).

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Triple Constraints of Projects

“According to Chaos Report, 52% of the projects are either delivered late or run over the allocated. The average across all companies is 189% of the original cost estimate. The average cost overrun is 178% for large companies, 182% for medium companies, and 214% for small companies. The average overrun is 222% of the original time estimate. For large companies, the average is 230%; for medium companies, the average is 202%; and for small companies, the average is 239%.”

Big Data CoE plays a vital role in bringing down the cost and reducing the response time to ensure project is delivered on time by helping the organization to build the skillful resources.

Big Data’s Role

Helping the organization to build quality big data applications on their own by maximizing their ability to leverage data. Data engineers are committed to helping ensure the data:

  • define your strategic data assets and data audience
  • gather the required data and put in place new collection methods
  • get the most from predictive analytics and machine learning
  • have the right technology, data infrastructure, and key data competencies
  • ensure you have an effective security and governance system in place to avoid huge financial, legal, and reputational problems.
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Data Analytics Stages

Architecture optimized building blocks covering all data analytics stages: data acquisition from a data source, preprocessing, transformation, data mining, modeling, validation, and decision making.

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Focus areas

Algorithms support the following computation modes:

  • Batch processing
  • Online processing
  • Distributed processing
  • Stream processing

The Big Data analytics lifecycle can be divided into the following nine stages:

  • Business Case Evaluation
  • Data Identification
  • Data Acquisition & Filtering
  • Data Extraction
  • Data Validation & Cleansing
  • Data Aggregation & Representation
  • Data Analysis
  • Data Visualization
  • Utilization of Analysis Results

A key focus of Big-data CoE is to establish a data-driven organization by developing proof of concept with the latest technologies with Big Data and Machine learning models. As of part of CoE initiatives, we are involved in developing the AI widgets to various market places, such as Azure, AWS, Magento and others. We are also actively involved in engaging and motivating the team to learn cutting edge technologies and tools like Apache Spark and Scala. We encourage the team to approach each problem in a pragmatic way by making them understand the latest architectural patterns over the traditional MVC methods.

It has been established that business-critical decisions supported by data-driven insights have been more successful. We aim to take our organization forward by unleashing the true potential of data!

If you have any questions about the CoE, you may reach out to them at SME_BIGDATA@gavstech.com

CoE Team Members

  • Abdul Fayaz
  • Adithyan CR
  • Aditya Narayan Patra
  • Ajay Viswanath V
  • Balakrishnan M
  • Bargunan Somasundaram
  • Bavya V
  • Bipin V
  • Champa N
  • Dharmeswaran P
  • Diamond Das
  • Inthazamuddin K
  • Kadhambari Manoharan
  • Kalpana Ashokan
  • Karthikeyan K
  • Mahaboobhee Mohamedfarook
  • Manju Vellaichamy
  • Manojkumar Rajendran
  • Masthan Rao Yenikapati
  • Nagarajan A
  • Neelagandan K
  • Nithil Raj Tharammal Paramb
  • Radhika M
  • Ramesh Jayachandar
  • Ramesh Natarajan
  • Ruban Salamon
  • Senthil Amarnath
  • T Mohammed Anas Aadil
  • Thulasi Ram G
  • Vijay Anand Shanmughadass
  • Vimalraj Subash

Center of Excellence – Database

Data Center as a Service Providers in USA

“During the World War II, there was a time when the Germans winning on every front and the fear of Hitler taking over the world was looming. At that point in time, had the Allies not taken drastic measures and invested in ground-breaking technologies such as radars, aircraft, atomic energy, etc., the world would have been starkly different from what it is today.

Even in today’s world, the pace at which things are changing is incredible. The evolution of technology is unstoppable, and companies must be ready. There is an inherent need for them to differentiate themselves by providing solutions that showcase a deep understanding of domain and technology to address evolving customer expectations. What becomes extremely important for companies is to establish themselves as incubators of innovation and possess the ability to constantly innovate and fail fast. Centers of Excellence can be an effective solution to address these challenges.

“An Organisation’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage”

  • Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO of General Electric

The Database CoE was formed with a mission to groom, enhance and incubate talents within GAVS to stay abreast of the evolving technology landscape and help our customers with cutting edge technology solutions.

We identify the expert and the requirements across all customer engagements within GAVS. Regular connects and technology sessions ensure everyone in the CoE is learning at least one new topic in a week. Below is our charter and roadmap by priority:

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Database CoE is focused on assisting our customers in every stage of the engagement right from on-boarding, planning, execution with consultative approach and a futuristic mindset. With above primary goals we are currently working on below initiatives:

Competency Building

When we help each other and stand together we evolve to be the strongest.

Continuous learning is an imperative in the current times. Our fast-paced trainings on project teams is an alternate to the primitive classroom sessions. We believe true learning happen when you are working on it hands-on. With this key aspect in mind, we divide the teams in smaller groups and map them to projects to get larger exposure and gain from experience.

This started off with a pilot with an ISP provider where we trained 4 CoE members in Azure and Power BI within a span of 2 months.

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Database Maturity Assessment

“When digital transformation is done right, it’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly “

  • George Westerman, research scientist at the MIT Center for Digital Business

Why Bother with a Database Assessment?

We often know we have a problem and can visualize the ideal state we want our technology solution to get us to.  However, it is challenging to figure out how to get there because it’s easy to confuse the symptoms with the cause of a problem. Thus, you end up solving the ‘symptom’ with a (potentially expensive) piece of technology that is ill-equipped to address the underlying cause.

We offer a structured process to assess your current database estate and select a technology solution helps you get around this problem, reduce risks and fast track the path to your true objective with futureproofing, by forcing you to both identify the right problem and solve it the right way.

Assessment Framework

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Below are the three key drivers powering the assessment.

Accelerated Assessment:

  • Automated assessment and benchmark of existing and new database estates against industry best practices and standards.
  • Analyze & Finetune
    • Analyze assessment findings and implement recommendations on performance, consistency, and security aspect
  • NOC+ZERO TOUCH L2
    • Shift Left and Automate L1/L2 Service requests and incidents with help of Database COE- Automation experts

As we progress on our journey, we want to establish ourselves as a catalyst to help our customers future-proof technology and help in early adoption of new solutions seamlessly.

If you have any questions about the CoE, you may reach out to them at COE_DATABASE@gavstech.com

CoE Team Members

  • Ashwin Kumar K
  • Ayesha Yasmin
  • Backiyalakshmi M
  • Dharmeswaran P
  • Gopinathan Sivasubramanian
  • Karthikeyan Rajasekaran
  • Lakshmi Kiran  
  • Manju Vellaichamy  
  • Manjunath Kadubayi  
  • Nagarajan A  
  • Nirosha Venkatesalu  
  • Praveen kumar Ralla  
  • Praveena M  
  • Rajesh Kumar Reddy Mannuru  
  • Satheesh Kumar K  
  • Sivagami R  
  • Subramanian Krishnan
  • Venkatesh Raghavendran

Business with a Heart

Balaji Uppili

People and technology are converging like never before, as the world is gripped by COVID – 19. Just a few months ago, nobody could have predicted or foreseen the way businesses are having to work today.  As we were strategizing on corporate governance, digital transformation and the best of resiliency plans to ensure business continuity, no one ever anticipated the scale and enormity of COVID 19.

Today, it has become obvious that COVID 19 has brought about the convergence of technology and humanity and how it can change the way businesses work and function.  While we as leaders have been thinking largely about business outcomes, this pandemic has triggered a more humane approach, and the approach is here to stay.  The humane approach will be the differentiator and will prove the winner.

There is no doubt that this pandemic has brought an urgent need to accelerate our digital capabilities. With the focus on strong IT infrastructure and remote working, workforces were able to transition to working from home, meeting through video conferencing, and surprisingly, this has turned to increase the humane aspect of business relations – it has now become alright for both parties to be seeing children, spouses or pets in meeting backgrounds, and that in itself has broken down huge barriers and formalities.  It is refreshing to see the emerging empathy that is getting stronger with every meeting, and increasing collaboration and communication. It is becoming increasingly clear that we have overlooked the important factor of how it is that people have been showing up to work.  Suddenly it is now more visible that people have equally strong roles within the family – when we see parents having to home-school their children, or having other care obligations, we are viewing their personal lives and are able to empathize with them more.  We are seeing the impact that business can have on people and their personal lives and this is a never like before opportunity for leaders to put our people first.

And with customers being the center of every business, the situation of not being able to do in-person meetings has now warranted newer ways to collaborate and further strengthen the customer-centricity initiatives even more.  It has become evident that no matter how much we as leaders are thinking of automating operations, it is human connections that run businesses successfully. Lots of things have been unraveled – Important business imperatives like criticality of clean workspace compliance, the fact that offshoring thousands of miles away is not factually a compromise, but a very cost-effective and efficient way of getting things done. Productivity has also increased, and work done this far by, has a positive impact of at least 20% or even more in certain situations. As boundaries and barriers are broken, the rigidities of who should work on something and when they should work on it have all become less rigid.  Employees are less regimental about time.  Virtual crowd outsourcing has become the norm – you throw an idea at a bunch of people and whoever has the ability and the bandwidth to handle the task takes care of it, instead of a formal task assignment, and this highlights the fungibility of people.

All in all, the reset in the execution processes and introducing much more of a humane approach is here to stay and make the new norm even more exciting.

About the Author –

Balaji has over 25 years of experience in the IT industry, across multiple verticals. His enthusiasm, energy, and client focus is a rare gift, and he plays a key role in bringing new clients into GAVS. Balaji heads the Delivery department and passionately works on Customer delight. He says work is worship for him and enjoys watching cricket, listening to classical music, and visiting temples.

IoT Adoption during the Pandemic

Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations

Naveen KT

From lightbulbs to cities, IoT is adding a level of digital intelligence to various things around us. Internet of Things or IoT is physical devices connected to the internet, all collecting and sharing data, which can then be used for various purposes. The arrival of super-cheap computers and the ubiquity of wireless networks are behind the widespread adoption of IoT. It is possible to turn any object, from a pill to an airplane, into an IoT-enabled device. It is making devices smarter by letting them ‘sense’ and communicate, without any human involvement.

Let us look at the developments that enabled the commercialization of IoT.

History

The idea of integrating sensors and intelligence to basic objects dates to the 1980s and 1990s. But the progress was slow because the technology was not ready. Chips were too big and bulky and there was no way for an object to communicate effectively.

Processors had to be cheap and power-frugal enough to be disposed of before it finally becomes cost-effective to connect to billions of devices. The adoption of RFID tags and IPV6 was a necessary step for IoT to scale.

Kevin Ashton penned the phrase ‘Internet of Things’ in 1999. Although it took a decade for this technology to catch up with his vision. According to Ashton “The IoT integrates the interconnectedness of human culture (our things) with our digital information system(internet). That’s the IoT”.

Early suggestions for IoT include ‘Blogjects’ (object that blog and record data about themselves to the internet), Ubiquitous computing (or ‘ubicomp’), invisible computing, and pervasive computing.

How big is IoT?

AIOps in Infrastructure Management

IDC predicts that there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices by 2025. It also suggests industrial and automotive equipment represent the largest opportunity of connected ‘things’.

Gartner predicts that the enterprise and automotive sectors will account for 5.8 billion devices this year.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has further enhanced the need for IoT-enabled devices to help the nations tackle the crisis.

IoT for the Government

Information about the movement of citizens is urgently required by governments to track the spread of the virus and potentially monitor their quarantine measures. Some IoT operators have solutions that could serve these purposes.

AIOps platform
  • Telia’s Division X has developed Crowd Insights which provides aggregated smartphone data to city and transport authorities of Nordic Countries. It is using the tool which will track the movement of citizens during the quarantine.
  • Vodafone provides insights on traffic congestion.
  • Telefonica developed Smart steps, which aggregates data on footfall and movement for the transport, tourism, and retail sectors.

Personal data of people will also help in tracking clusters of infection by changing the privacy regulations. For example, in Taiwan, high-risk quarantined patients were being monitored through their mobile phones to ensure compliance with quarantine rules. In South Korea, the officials track infected citizens and alert others if they come into contact with them. The government of Israel went as far as passing an emergency law to monitor the movement of infected citizens via their phones.

China is already using mass temperature scanning devices in public areas like airports. A team of researchers at UMass Amherst is testing a device that can analyze coughing sounds to identify the presence of flu-like symptoms among crowds.

IoT in Health care

COVID-19 could be the trigger to explore new solutions and be prepared for any such future pandemics, just as the SARS epidemic in 2003 which spurred the governments in South Korea and Taiwan to prepare for today’s problems.

IT operations analytics

Remote patient monitoring (RPM) and telemedicine could be helpful in managing a future pandemic. For example, patients with chronic diseases who are required to self-isolate to reduce their exposure to COVID-19 but need continuous care would benefit from RPM. Operators like Orange, Telefónica, and Vodafone already have some experience in RPM.

Connected thermometers are being used in hospitals to collect data while maintaining a social distance. Smart wearables are also helpful in preventing the spread of the virus and responding to those who might be at risk by monitoring their vital signs.

Connected thermometers are being used in hospitals to collect data while maintaining a social distance. Smart wearables are also helpful in preventing the spread of the virus and responding to those who might be at risk by monitoring their vital signs.

Telehealth is widely adopted in the US, and the authorities there are relaxing reimbursement rules and regulations to encourage the extension of specific services. These include the following.

  • Medicare, the US healthcare program for senior citizens, has temporarily expanded its telehealth service to enable remote consultations.
  • The FCC has made changes to the Rural Health Care (RHC) and E-Rate programs to support telemedicine and remote learning. Network operators will be able to provide incentives or free network upgrades that were previously not permitted, for example, for hospitals that are looking to expand their telemedicine programs.

IoT for Consumers

The IoT promises to make our environment smarter, measurable, and interactive.COVID-19 is highly contagious, and it can be transmitted from one to another even by touching the objects used by the affected person. The WHO has instructed us to disinfect and sanitize high touch objects. IoT presents us with an ingenious solution to avoid touching these surfaces altogether. Hands-free and sensor-enabled devices and solutions like smart lightbulbs, door openers, smart sinks, and others help prevent the spread of the virus.

Security aspects of IoT

Security is one of the biggest issues with the IoT. These sensors collect extremely sensitive data like what we say and do in our own homes and where we travel. Many IoT devices lack security patches, which means they are permanently at risk. Hackers are now actively targeting IoT devices such as routers and webcams because of their inherent lack of security makes them easy to compromise and pave the way to giant botnets.

Machine learning service provider
Machine learning service provider

IoT bridges the gap between the digital and the physical world which means hacking into devices can have dangerous real-world consequences. Hacking into sensors and controlling the temperature in power stations might end up in catastrophic decisions and taking control of a driverless car could also end in disaster.

Overall IoT makes the world around us smarter and more responsive by merging the digital and physical universe. IoT companies should look at ways their solutions can be repurposed to help respond to the crisis.

Enterprise IT infrastructure services
Enterprise IT infrastructure services

References:

  • https://www.analysysmason.com/Research/Content/Comments/covid19-iot-role-rdme0-rma17/
  • shorturl.at/wBFGT

Naveen is a software developer at GAVS. He teaches underprivileged children and is interested in giving back to society in as many ways as he can. He is also interested in dancing, painting, playing keyboard, and is a district-level handball player.

Customer Centricity during Unprecedented Times

Cloud service for business

Balaji Uppili

“Revolve your world around the customer and more customers will revolve around you.”

Heather Williams

Customer centricity lies at the heart of GAVS. An organization’s image is largely the reflection of how well its customers are treated. And unprecedented times demand unprecedented measures to ensure that our customers are well-supported. We conversed with our Chief Customer Success Officer, Balaji Uppili, to understand the pillars/principles of maintaining and improving an organization’s customer-centricity amidst a global emergency.

Helping keep the lights on

Keeping the lights on – this forms the foundation of all organizations. It is of utmost importance to extend as much support as required by the customers to ensure their business as usual remains unaffected. Keeping a real-time pulse on the evolving requirements and expectations of our customers will go a long way. It is impossible to understate the significance of continuous communication and collaboration here. Our job doesn’t end at deploying collaboration tools, we must also measure its effectiveness and take necessary corrective actions.

The lack of a clear vision into the future may lead business leaders into making not-so-sound decisions. Hence, bringing an element of ‘proactiveness’ into the equation will go a long way in assuring the customers of having invested in the right partner.

Being Empathy-driven

While empathy has always been a major tenet of customer-centricity, it is even more important in these times. The crisis has affected everyone, some more than others, and in ways, we couldn’t have imagined. Thus, we must drive all our conversations with empathy. The way we deal with our customers in a crisis is likely to leave lasting impressions in their minds.

Like in any relationship, we shouldn’t shy away from open and honest communication. It is also important to note that all rumours should be quelled by pushing legitimate information to our customers regularly. Transparency in operations and compassion in engagements will pave the path for more profound and trusted relationships.

Innovating for necessity and beyond

It is said that “Necessity is the mother of invention”. We probably haven’t faced a situation in the recent past that necessitated invention as much as it does now!

As we strive to achieve normalcy, we should take up this opportunity to innovate solutions. Solutions that are not just going to help our customers adjust to the new reality, but arm them with a more efficient way of achieving their desired outcomes. Could the new way of working be the future standard? Is the old way worth going back to? This is the apt time to answers these questions and reimagines our strategies.

Our deep understanding of our customers holds the key to helping them in meaningful ways. This should be an impetus for us to devise ways of delivering more value to our customers.

General Principles

With rapidly evolving situations and uncertainty, it is easy to fall prey to misinformation and rumours. Hence, it is crucial to keep a channel of communication open between you and your customers and share accurate information. We should be listening to our customers and be extra perceptive to their needs, whether they are articulated or not. Staying ahead and staying positive should be our mantras to swear by. The new barometer of customer experience will be how their partners/vendors meet their new needs with care and concern.

Over-communicating is not something we should shy away from. We should be constantly communicating with our customers to reassure them of our resolve to stand by them. Again, it is an absolute must to adjust our tone and not plug in any ‘sales-ly’ messages.

It is easy to lose focus on long-term goals and just concentrate on near-term survival. This may not be the best strategy if we’re looking to stay afloat after all this is over. All decisions must be data-driven or outcome-driven. Reimagining and designing newer ways of delivering value and ensuring customer success will be the true test of enterprises in the near future.

We’re looking at uncertain times ahead. It is imperative to build resilience to such disruptions. One way would be customer-centricity – we should be relentless in our pursuit of understanding, connecting with, and delighting our customers. Resilience is going to be as important as cost and efficiency in a business.

About the Author:
Balaji has over 25 years of experience in the IT industry, across multiple verticals. His enthusiasm, energy and client focus is a rare gift, and he plays a key role in bringing new clients into GAVS. Balaji heads the Delivery department and passionately works on Customer delight. He says work is worship for him, and enjoys watching cricket, listening to classical music and visiting temples.

Potential shifts in the world, #COVID-19

Saji Rajasekaran

Apart from the tremendous number of lives lost and the huge impact on several industries and jobs, COVID-19 has caused a lot of pain and distress. However, it has also shined light on a few areas that we can hope will see a positive impact, short-term or long-term.

Mother Earth – Less people commuting, less aircraft’s in the air and less cars on the road means cleaner air, at least in the short-term.

Healthcare Policies – Could the delays in tests, lack of enough infrastructure to screen and poor emergency management procedures hopefully drive a debate in changing our healthcare policies for the better?

Focusing on the family – People are spending more time with family. This could be good or bad, I guess, but the shutdown has afforded many families time to be around each more than ever.

Better hygiene and better eating habits – Will this experience, at least temporarily help teach our generation to have better hygiene and help build better eating habits?

E-Learning – Could this experience provide the experience needed to make e-learning more acceptable and potentially make University education cheaper in the long-term?

Internet infrastructure – Teleworking and e-learning will stretch the internet bandwidth in homes and neighborhoods; Will this prompt the industry to speed up their investment in better hi-speed infrastructure?

Increased investment in poorer countries – The awareness that borders don’t quite stop viruses or the associated economic meltdowns in an increasingly connected world, hopefully changes the way developed countries treat poorer countries.

Growth in specific industries – Should we expect a growth spurt for cashless transactions, online grocery shopping/delivery, tele-medicine, and community based organic farming?

About the author:

Saji is a father to 2 kids, Executive, and figuring out how to make more time to do things he wants to do; in that order. He has 20 years of experience leading successful teams in various industry domains and holds a Masters in Business Administration from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.