CEO of Bitmark Sean Moss-Pultz: Working with Fung Fellows

Fung Fellow team Soteria Health, Hamilton Chang, Alejandra Leynez Chantres, and Yanna Gong (left to right)

The best learning often comes from outside of the classroom. With this belief as a founding principle, the Fung Fellowship for Wellness and Technology Innovations gives undergraduate students access to real-world experiences in the health and tech sectors. Fung Fellows apply their knowledge to impactful projects, collaborating with real customers and working directly with industry partners from many fields.

Bitmark, a startup that focuses on creating tools that enable ownership and property rights to digital assets through blockchain technology, has been an industry partner since 2017. Bitmark sponsored two Innovation Lab projects — Soteria Health, a blockchain-based health data exchange for research and Peerlocity, a transportation data exchange platform using blockchain. We got a chance to learn more about these collaborations and talk with Bitmark’s CEO Sean Moss-Pultz about his experience working with Fung Fellows.

Sean Moss-Pultz, CEO of Bitmark

Bitmark first began working with UC Berkeley through a collaboration with doctoral-level researchers in the School of Public Health (SPH). Using a blockchain-based data-donation app from the company, the researchers were able to crowdsource health data for their studies. Through the success of this project, Sean was connected with Director of Fung Fellowship, Joni Rubin, and Lead Faculty Instructor, Jaspal Sandhu, initiating the Fung Fellowship partnership.

The Bitmark Health app with School of Public Health

“It’s like getting a second brain. The Fellows have a totally different set of perspectives and skills from us,” Sean said.

Team Peerlocity poster, Fung Fellowship 2018

The Fung Fellows particularly emphasized human-centered design — something that the Bitmark team had not focused on previously. In the project focused on the creation of a data economy around bicycle sharing, the Fellows interviewed key stakeholders. Their interviews revealed interesting insights into how local governments could participate in similar programs. This led the Bitmark team to reevaluate their approach and consider local governments as key stakeholders in making the system sustainable.

“We learned a lot about how they look at what’s important for new projects from their process,” Sean said.

The Fellows also learned a great deal through this partnership. One of the Fellows and member of Soteria Health, Hamilton Chang, was offered the opportunity to travel to Taipei and work with the Bitmark team in person.

Poster stand from Soteria Health at Fung Institute’s Winter Spotlight 2017

“I had the chance to learn not only how the software development cycle runs in a small tech startup, but also got to do so in Taiwan, which was an entirely unexpected and invigorating experience,” Hamilton, a Philosophy major with an interest in data, reflected.

Diversity is another big part of the partnership and area of synergy for Bitmark and the Fung Fellowship. Bitmark’s team is very diverse — with 25 employees from six different countries and a 50/50 gender ratio. Similarly, the Fung Fellows come from vastly different academic and personal backgrounds, representing 22 unique majors and hometowns ranging from the Bay Area to Malawi.

“I wanted to learn from the Fung Fellowship how to structure teams with very different backgrounds and make something coherent,” Sean said.

Equipped with intentional teaming curriculum and Fellowship staff directly supporting team dynamics, Fung Fellows began their industry projects with skills and strategies to work across disciplines.

“I learned that a lot of product work is quite similar to what I was doing in my philosophy classes at Berkeley: taking incomplete, sometimes outlandish ideas and systematically breaking them down into tangible pieces. Looking back now, I realize that the Fellowship gave me the space to combine my own strange way of thinking with others to tackle real problems that required creative, interdisciplinary answers,” Hamilton said.

Working with Fung Fellows has made Sean realize how much the youth have to offer businesses like Bitmark.

“By integrating their perspective into product development, as early as possible, I believe we can make better products for everyone,” he said.

Fung Fellows Léa Tran-Le and Omar Muhamed presenting the project

Inspired by the future use cases proposed by Fung Fellows working on the health data exchange project, the Bitmark team is now working on a health app to help people digitally aggregate and control all their health records. This app acts like a “health data trust” that crowdsources data directly from individuals. Not only does it free people from the hassle of keeping different paper documents, but it also decentralizes the oversight of data. The system is governed by a public blockchain which avoids any third-party institution, making the transfer of data more transparent and secure.

“We’re absolutely looking forward to doing more with Fung Fellowship in the future,” Sean said.

By Jessie Ying on January 03, 2019.

UC Berkeley and Bitmark partner to bring data donation to public health studies

UC Berkeley and Bitmark partner to bring data donation to public health studies

Bitmark technology allows users to take ownership of their digital lives and help advance the frontiers of public health

Our phones and Fitbits track our steps, calories, sleep cycles, and more. This data is empowering and helps improve our wellbeing. This data can also aid research in myriad areas. What if you could safely donate your data directly to those who are advancing the frontiers of public health?

Today, we are extremely excited to announce our partnership with UC Berkeley School of Public Health to explore how to accomplish exactly that.

Bitmark will fund two School of Public Health research fellows to conduct studies that securely incorporate personal data from our phones and other devices. When students return in the fall semester, they will have the opportunity to transition from passive internet users to active participants, taking ownership of their digital lives, and helping to advance public health.

“The School of Public Health at UC Berkeley is excited to partner with Bitmark Inc. on this research fellowship. It is a great opportunity for our young researchers to gain valuable hands-on experience at the intersection of public health and technology.”

— Lauren Goldstein, PhD, Director of Research Development, School of Public Health, UC Berkeley.

Announcing the Berkeley fellows!

Bitmark is pleased to announce Madelena Ng and Victor Villalobos as the fellows who will be using Bitmark technology in their future studies as part of this new partnership. In addition to funding support, Bitmark has committed to providing dedicated engineering resources to work closely with fellowship recipients to help them realize their research goals. Here are the brief abstracts about each of their research project plans:

Study 1: Ameliorating Recruitment Challenges for Women’s Health: Madelena Ng

Madelena is a doctoral student in Public Health. Her research aims to evaluate whether digital health technologies alleviate existing challenges in clinical research.

Objective: This study assesses whether recruitment and data collection into a women’s health focused digital study is optimized by leveraging Bitmark’s capability with securing personal data ownership.

Hypothesis: Physical activity and quality of sleep are consistently reported to promote better overall health; we hypothesize these factors are positively correlated with a telling element of women’s health — regular menstrual cycles. In addition, we hypothesize that educating potential participants about data ownership and the Bitmark app will lead to improved participation and participant experience in the proposed digital study.

Methods: Personal health data will be sourced entirely from digital health technologies, specifically Fitbit and Clue, to assess the effects of health behaviors (e.g., physical activity and sleep) on the menstrual cycle. In addition, eligible participants will be randomly assigned to either receive or not receive an education module about data ownership and the goals of the Bitmark app.

Study 2: Improving Diabetes Care Protocols by studying remission cases: Victor Villalobos

Victor is a doctoral candidate in Public Health, his expertise is behavioral design, biostatistics, and lifestyle interventions.

Objective: The objective of the diabetes remission registry is to refine and improve diabetes care protocols through the study of diabetes remission cases.

Methods: Participants will be recruited through digital and traditional channels. After informed consent and verification of clinical improvement, we will apply qualitative research instruments about their natural history of remission. With the use of Bitmark, participants will be able to share detailed information regarding their lifestyles — i.e. dietary composition and frequency; physical activity intensity, duration and frequency; sleeping patterns — and physiological indicators collected through their smartphones and connected devices (i.e. weight scales, heart rate wrists monitors, etc).

Expected Results: We expect to generate insights on the dietary, physical activity and psychological strategies that increase the probability to achieve and maintain diabetes remission.

Further details of this research can be found at diabetesremission.org.

How the studies will work

Bitmark is developing simple tools that connect researchers to potential data donors through popular Messenger apps such as Facebook Messenger and WeChat. These tools, also known as a “bot,” automate the entire donation process:

  1. discovering available studies,
  2. extracting personal data and converting it into digital property,
  3. recording consent such that a researcher can use the valuable digital property in their study.

Berkeley students will know exactly where their data is being used and for what purposes; researchers can directly confirm the provenance of data and the students’ consent to use it. Behind the scenes, the Bitmark bot interfaces with the Bitmark blockchain to provide a verifiable record of data donations, protecting both the researcher and data donor, without relying on central intermediaries.

Studies will collect data two main categories of data:

  1. iOS HealthKit data — such as characteristics (birth date, blood type,…), basic samples (height, weight, body fat,…), sleep samples, food samples (calories, vitamins,…), exercise samples (steps, flights climbed,…) and reproductive samples.
  2. Health tech wearables, devices, and sensor data from over 300 different data streams — such as Fitbit, Nest, Aware, and more.

Individuals can also ask the Bitmark bot simple questions such as, “How is my data been used?” and get back instant answers. At any time participants can opt out of donating data.

About Bitmark

Earlier this year, Bitmark launched their technology in private beta to allow all individuals to own and share their digital data, and take advantage of the value they create online. Currently our personal data is being held in our smart phones, fitness tracking devices, and more; with Bitmark individuals have the freedom to share their data with other individuals, companies, non-profits, schools, and more.

Bitmark is still in a private beta, if you would like to keep up with when the public technology will be released, please sign up to receive infrequent emails here.

By Bitmark Inc. on May 23, 2017.