Intel and PokitDok securing blockchains with Software Guard Extensions

A new blockchain-based platform is being developed by technology giant Intel and healthcare API service provider PokitDok. The platform promises to advance blockchain technology by processing transaction requests securely using Intel SGX.

Called the DokChain, PokitDok’s new blockchain was created specifically for healthcare, and supporting industries, that use computers running Intel chips. The new chain is built on Hyperledger Sawtooth, an Intel-led variant of the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger blockchain.

Unveiled in September 2016, the DokChain mission is “to provide a secure network connecting all the stakeholders in a patient’s care,” according to PokitDok’s CTO Ted Tanner, Jr., “from [electronic medical records] to the sensor in their asthma inhaler, and the pharmacy where they bought it.”

The recent announcement revealed that they are off to a roaring start, especially with their many connections across the insurance industry, a sector that is already well acquainted with blockchain technology.

- Ted Tanner, Jr., PokitDok CTO & Co-Founder

The American multinational semiconductor corporation, Intel, is the world's largest and highest valued semiconductor chip maker by revenue, and is the company most directly responsible for Silicon Valley’s moniker. The computing giant creates the majority of the world’s microprocessors, including most of those found in personal computers from across the industry, including Apple, Dell, HP and Lenovo.

Intel has been experimenting with blockchain technology since at least 2014, when they made the code to their Sawtooth Lake project open source. In 2016, the company partnered with Bitcoin payment processing leader BitPay, which secures the wallets that protect people’s digital assets on their Blockchain.

Seeking to protect select code and data on Blockchains from disclosure or modification, Intel created Software Guard Extensions (SGX), which protects selected Blockchain-hosted data through the use of "enclaves," or protected areas of execution.

- Intel

SGX is a set of new instructions from Intel that allows user-level code to allocate private regions of memory, called enclaves, that unlike normal process memory is also protected from processes running at higher privilege levels. The instructions provide use “enclaves,” which are much like a TEE chip on modern smartphones, which operate outside the operating system.

"Intel SGX can help improve blockchain scalability, security, and privacy," said Jerry Bautista, vice president New Technology Group and general manager of Intel's New Business Group. Sawtooth also offers customizable transaction families, which enable PokitDok to create blockchain solutions tailored to the needs of the healthcare industry. "With Hyperledger Sawtooth, PokitDok can utilize Intel SGX and other hardware platform capabilities to enhance and increase protection of their healthcare system," Bautista explains.

Having launched in 2014, PokitDok’s existing product line includes a diverse suite of API services for healthcare and related companies. Over 4,000 third-party applications are built on PokitDok’s APIs, the startup claims, including software from 550+ insurance companies. These applications can accomplish a variety of data tasks that healthcare professionals need to “enable seamless data exchange for identity verification, eligibility checks, claims processing, authorizations, and medical referrals,” the company explained.

As soon as the DokChain is ready registered healthcare providers will be able to take advantage of the blockchain’s immutable ledger and strong encryption for all of their customer’s records, while they connect through PokitDok’s various APIs and use smart contracts the company provides in conjunction with their existing API services.

The company claims that this interoperability, which supports both current and emerging data standards, will make “strong encryption baked into a transactional architecture” accessible to all healthcare stakeholders, from physicians and their electronic medical records, to sensors and devices.

PokitDok has raised $48 million in venture fundraising to date, including an investment in March from GIS Strategic Ventures, the venture arm of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. A substantial percentage of the undisclosed amount of capital has been earmarked for use towards funding further development of DokChain.

A technology demonstration of DokChain in action given by PokitDok CEO Lisa Maki from September 2016

CTO and co-founder of PokitDok, Ted Tanner, Jr., recently told TechCrunch that the partnership with Intel and DokChain represents a “singularity event in healthcare.” His company is the first to deliver a working blockchain-healthcare solution. However, since the blockchain would be useless if there were no companies to create all that customer data, PokitDok has gathered together many of its API customers and says that there is now “a broad consortium of more than 40 companies including Amazon, Capital One, Guardian and Ascension, among others” ready to use the technology.

All of the consortium’s members would both supply data to the blockchain and benefit from accessing it. If each member is using the Intel chipset designed to process the DokChain, they would have dedicated processing for each others’ data through PokitDok’s APIs.

- PokitDok