Pandemics are nothing new to humans. In fact, there have been a number of very serious influenza pandemics over the past 100+ years. The most notable were 1918 (H1N1), 1958 (H2N2), 1968 (H3N2) and 2009 (H1N1)1. While there is plenty we do not know about uncovering the origins and ultimate cures for viruses, what we do know is more will come in the future. While we wait for therapies, vaccines and ultimately a cure (for both new and old viruses), the best practice we have is some combination of testing, contact tracing and isolation2.

Home testing or monitoring devices are something we are familiar with as well. We see these across a spectrum of diseases and conditions including pregnancy testing, glucose testing and cholesterol to name a few3. Testing for viruses can be done in a number of ways. The ones we hear about more recently and frequently are antibody tests (do I have it) and antigen tests (have I had it)4. In fact, Rutgers University recently created a saliva testing kit that was approved by the FDA5. While finding a test for viruses has historically taken some time to complete, it is conceivable that in the future and with the advancement of genome cracking capability, we may be able to quickly crack the code for new novel viruses. Results of these tests may eventually be performed completely via an at-home kit. When a new virus of concern is discovered, genetic code cracking takes place and configuration of the new test is downloaded to this theoretical home testing device.

So, this is where identity and authentication come to the rescue. We live in a world where both in physical and digital interactions, who are you and are you who you say you are, are questions organizations try to determine across a number of different customer journeys. This includes everything from opening new accounts to gaining access to your bank account. Associating one’s identity to a home testing device would be crucial to understand who is infected (at a point in time) so that individual would understand if they are infectious, regardless of whether they did or did not present symptoms. The individual could even set a level of privacy controls where they could have a spectrum of conditions: (1) completely private—share with no one (2) only share they are positive or negative (3) share all data. While clearly there are a number of data privacy, HIPAA and other security measures to work out—it is conceivable.

Authentication would also be an important element to the equation, as the results of these tests have a great importance for the person being tested to be who they say they are. This could potentially impact allowing certain portions of the population to return to work, get on a flight, go to a sporting event or be involved in a host of other activities that businesses may want to determine prior to interaction with other patrons and customers. “Binding” the device to the identity and then ensuring it is the person who took the test would be vital to understanding one’s “status” as to their viral exposure.

With the speed of innovation as we know it today—it is conceivable that home testing for a variety of human conditions and viruses combined with the current capabilities of identity and authentication to ensure the right identity is attributed to each test, could be around the corner.

1. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/basics/past-pandemics.html
2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/principles-contact-tracing.html
3. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/vitro-diagnostics/home-use-tests
4. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw235580
5. https://www.rutgers.edu/news/new-rutgers-saliva-test-coronavirus-gets-fda-approval