TMF Catalyst Skynet Facilitates the Future of Telemedicine with Blockchain

May 13, 2019 | Blog

→ Join Amartus at the Digital Transformation World, Nice 14-16th May 2019 | Booth 236

Intercarrier Settlement in Delivering Telemedicine Solutions

by Konrad Herba, Senior Project Manager

International remote surgery or remote medical consultations is a part of telemedicine that has long intrigued medical professionals. While conceptually easy to grasp, the actual implementation of international telemedicine has faced several challenges, not least of which is how to set up the network connections between medical facilities in each country.

As demand grows for this type of service and more healthcare professionals gain experience and confidence in telemedicine, more of the barriers are falling. At TMF Digital Transformation World, I’ll join a group of telecommunications experts that will demonstrate a solution to the issue of setting up the network connectivity needed for these services.

Recently, I was part of a team at Amartus that developed an Intercarrier Settlement Platform using Blockchain technology. This platform allows service providers to automate and optimize several important business aspects of intercarrier reconciliation and settlement, and also provides support in resolving disputes that are an inherent part of the process. Automating these settlement issues is an important step towards the vision of autonomous networks. This solution is a mature product implemented in accordance with the standardized layered architecture model developed by IEEE Corporate Member Blockchain Engineering Council.

Digital Transformation World 2019

Skynet – Intercarrier Settlement for Remote Medical Consultancy

Amartus was glad to join the TMF Catalyst Skynet to demonstrate the Intercarrier Settlement Platform in the context of 5G network slicing as defined by ETSI and also to promote the usage of the MEF LSO 3.0 API: Sonata and Cantata and a federated orchestration architecture.

To facilitate this service, we collaborated with other Skynet participants including BearingPoint, Ericsson, EXFO, Infosys and Rift. (Click here to see the full list of champions and participants for this catalyst).

A great example of such an application of Intercarrier Settlement Platform is the medical consultancy use case that is a part of Skynet. It calls for a 5G-enabled remote medical service provided between hospitals in Japan and United Kingdom. To provide a guaranteed quality of service, a 5G network slice needs to be ordered, provisioned and reconciled.

Skynet is designed to showcase 5G-enabled remote healthcare in a multi-operator orchestrated environment. The objective is to enable a diverse ecosystem of partners including multiple operators from different geographies which seamlessly provide a set of end-to-end hybrid services. Skynet will highlight the importance of business assurance, monetization and the technical maturity of next-gen 5G enabled services. The simplified illustration of supporting architecture is shown in the figure below:

Amartus Inter-carrier Settlement Platform

Provisioning Intercarrier 5G Network Slice

To provision the intercarrier 5G network slice, the BSS/OSS stacks of involved carriers utilize a federated orchestration approach. Vodafone UK, one of the catalyst champions, acts here as a service provider. It enables its customer, a UK hospital, to order medical services through an eHealth Portal. As a service provider, Vodafone UK is also responsible for ordering the local Japanese 5G network slice from its partner NTT Japan, which is also a catalyst champion.

The rules under which such a service is provided are digitalized and take the form of a Blockchain Smart Contract. Through the application of Blockchain, the catalyst allows partners to jointly develop the Smart Contract and to share the transaction data. This allows for the automation of the billing and settlement process by enforcing mutually agreed upon rules.

As an intercarrier settlement process input, the system consumes data from the call detail records (CDR) which are produced by both service providers and which document the details of a telecommunication transaction.

Dispute Handling

An important functionality of the catalyst is dispute handling. Disputes can appear when CDR data describing the same billing event differs between operators (see Figure 2). The solution demonstrated in the catalyst allows for automated identification of conflicting CDR data and noting of a disputed case and forwarding the information to a specialist for manual processing. The catalyst solution provides tools that allow partners to agree on the correct values and reinforce them for further processing. In this way, the labor-intense and long-lasting process of handling disputes is streamlined and radically improved.

Data mismatch

SLA Violation

Another Skynet platform functionality which finds its application in the intercarrier settlement process is the automation of penalty fees execution due to service SLA violations. Although this will not be demonstrated in the Skynet demonstration at Digital Transformation World, it is worth mentioning as it’s a common issue and having this feature allows the solution to cover the entire landscape of use cases.
Currently, executing penalty fees due to SLA violations is, to a large extent, a manual process and is subject to dispute. Often, the time and cost involved in investigating the violation can cost more than the service provider will recover in the SLA penalty fee. Manual resolution of SLA violations are a source of financial inefficiencies and not compliant with the concept of autonomous networks.

The Skynet solution integrates the SLA violation events into the service assurance system so they can be spotted and processed by the Blockchain Smart Contract. As a result, a penalty fee gets calculated according to the respective contact records and automatically executed.

Summary

Telemedicine is an important application for Blockchain-based intercarrier settlements because lives and health are on the line. In this catalyst, the participants were able to demonstrate the use of this technology in the context of 5G network slicing. The solution allows service connectivity to be scheduled for automatic set up. This is a tremendous advance over today’s manual processes and one that enables international telemedicine.

Would you like to know more about standard-compliant intercarrier solutions?