Austin wants to use blockchain technology to help the homeless

Looking for a better solution.
Looking for a better solution.
Image: Francois Mori/AP Photo
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Stolen and lost identification often keeps the 7,000 homeless in Austin, Texas, from getting critical services such as medical care, housing, and potential employment. To help solve such issues, the city wants to use blockchain, the same underlying technology behind bitcoin.

The technology could be used to create unique digital identifiers for homeless people, allowing them to reestablish the credibility of their housing, health, and employment records and help put them on the road to recovery.

The idea is one of 35 that Bloomberg Philanthropies selected from over 300 applications for the testing phase of its 2018 US Mayors Challenge. The challenge asked American cities for technology and data solutions for their most pressing challenges and awarded up to $100,000 in grants for each winning city to experiment with and refine their ideas. The ideas will be re-evaluated in August. Four cities will be awarded $1 million and one will receive a grand prize of $5 million to implement their ideas.

Other proposals include that of Cary, North Carolina, which wants to combat opioid abuse by testing a system for measuring the concentration of opioid metabolites in sewage. The system would map out real-time opioid consumption and enable proactive, neighborhood-based interventions.

In Florida, where rising sea levels are already flooding coastal cities, Miami and Miami Beach will prototype a system for collecting and sharing data that projects where floods will occur. That may help people reroute their commutes to avoid flooded streets and figure out where not to buy property. It could also help make decisions on public infrastructure investments.

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, proposed to lower incarceration rates for nonviolent offenders by using crime, health, and social service data to target appropriate interventions.

South Bend, Indiana proposed to create affordable ride-sharing services for low-income and part-time workers whose commutes aren’t served by public transit.