Developer Spotlight: Matt Johnson – Oasis Labs


Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I’m Matt Johnson, a Biomedical Software Developer at the Icahn School of Medicine within Mount Sinai and work alongside Mike Jones, Mark Shervey, Joel Dudley, and Noah Zimmerman. We are part of the Health Data and Design Innovation (HD2i) Center and Center for Biomedical Blockchain Research.

And a bit about your project?

Our team developed an open-source iOS DApp built on the Oasis Devnet 1.0. This DApp was motivated by a real use case in biomedical research requiring data privacy and allows research study participants to share useful features of their location data via their iPhone with a research team, without revealing their raw GPS coordinates. We recently published a paper, “Building a Secure Biomedical Data Sharing Decentralized App: Tutorial” to serve as a tutorial for developing the DApp on iOS. Within the tutorial we also discuss traditional approaches to data privacy in research, the rationale for a blockchain approach, and our reasoning for using Oasis Labs to address the critical gap in blockchain’s lack of confidentiality.

When and why did you first get excited about blockchain technology?

We first got excited about blockchain technology about three years ago and jumped into development out of both personal and professional interest. In 2017, our team created the Center for Biomedical Blockchain within the Institute for Next Generation Healthcare at Mount Sinai in an attempt to identify promising biomedical blockchain projects from those simply riding on the coattails of the ICO hype. Our center, in collaboration with Andy Coravos, aggregated and filtered through all of the existing health-care related blockchain projects to report on objective details such as industry focus, function, amount raised, and whether it is open source, has a demo, or has technical documentation. You can learn more about our work here.

What made you interested in building on the Oasis Network?

Initially, we saw a lot of potential in what blockchain could offer. However, while developing on Ethereum, we saw some limitations that were not quite yet solved. While our center investigated potential use-cases for blockchain in healthcare, it became apparent privacy preservation was required for nearly all of these use-cases and unfortunately was also lacking in most available blockchain networks.

This research ultimately resulted in our recently published paper on “Privacy-Preserving Methods for Feature Engineering Using Blockchain: Review, Evaluation, and Proof of Concept”. We compared current approaches based on how they maintain data privacy and the practicality of their implementations, which include trusted third parties, secure hardware, and blockchain-based techniques.

During our research, we came across Oasis Labs which appeared to be one of the more promising approaches. We were excited and decided to use it to develop a proof of concept which resulted in the tutorial iOS DApp we developed for sharing features of geolocation data in healthcare research, without revealing the coordinates of study participants.

How can others try out your product? Learn more about what you’re up to?

Our published papers are freely available at:

Building a Secure Biomedical Data Sharing Decentralized App (DApp): Tutorial www.jmir.org/2019/10/e13601

Privacy-Preserving Methods for Feature Engineering Using Blockchain: Review, Evaluation, and Proof of Concept: www.jmir.org/2019/8/e13600/

The open-source project is available on GitHub at:

  1. github.com/HD2i/Geolocation-iO

To find out more about our work, you can find us at biomedicalblockchain.org

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