Stephan Noller, CEO at Ubirch tells us about the Cologne-based company specializing in blockchain-based cybersecurity technology.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Ubirch.
Stephan Noller: As a serial entrepreneur, I have been passionate about the Internet of Things (IoT) for many years. Given my deep understanding of the industry, I saw the potential need for the associated requirements for securing data.
Thus, in 2016, being a studied psychologist, I founded Ubirch, a Cologne-based company specializing in blockchain-based cybersecurity technology. With offices in Berlin, Munich, Tel Aviv, and Dubai, the firm initially focused its offering on companies in the industrial, smart cities, insurance, and energy supply sectors. “We also kept an eye on the healthcare sector, widely considered difficult to access, but not as a top priority.” With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, all of that shifted, and the healthcare sector became a priority for Ubirch.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Stephan Noller: COVID-19 presented me and my team of specialists in cryptography, blockchain, and data-driven business models the opportunity to seek meaningful ways of contributing to overcome the pandemic. Together with trusted partners, Ubirch developed a privacy-friendly solution that uses cryptography and blockchain technology to digitize an individual’s COVID-19 status consistently. The system allows users to digitally carry proof of their COVID-19 test status and present it when needed, such as before embarking on a trip.
“In a global pandemic, it is imperative that we have trusted, digitally verifiable records of an individual’s test status.” “That doesn’t mean that we should sacrifice an individual’s data privacy. Our solution provides tested individuals with verifiable proof of their status that they can present at their own discretion.”
The process is simple and begins, for example, with someone taking a COVID-19 test. The lab records the personal data, takes a sample, and evaluates the test results. Automatically, an anonymous digital fingerprint is created from the data and a secret that is only accessible to the test person. This anonymous fingerprint is cryptographically signed by the lab and then anchored by Ubirch in a blockchain as immutable proof. The data itself is not transmitted, and no data is visible or saved in the blockchain at any time. Thus, the solution is GDPR-compliant and meets the highest data privacy requirements.
The tested individual receives the result from the lab, including a coded QR code that includes the readable information. Only the tested individual gets the QR code, ensuring complete control over when to reveal their results.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Stephan Noller: Remain Agile and Adapt to Change
It took less than four weeks for Ubirch to secure the first customer for the new solution, and demand remains high in Germany and abroad. “This solution can become a blueprint for the ongoing digitization of data in healthcare and other industries.” “Ubirch’s rapid shift to a pandemic-related offering demonstrates the need for companies to remain agile and be willing to adapt to changing circumstances to thrive.”
Your final thoughts?
Stephan Noller: I advise other founders to be persistent and tenacious: “Keep at it and don’t give up on an idea, even when things get tough.”