this is an introduction to a real-live case study, which – if you like it and want to know more, then please leave me a comment. otherwise, i will begin blogging on other notions for the data vault. counterfeit drugs is a world wide problem. the end-result is that everything from placebos (sugar pills) to harmful chemical agents make it in to these problematic drugs. the absolute worst of it, is they kill people all over the world. counterfeit drugs affect the markets world-wide, and is an epidemic that really should be stopped, or at least the tide should be stemmed. i was involved in a congressional project a couple years ago to do just that, and yes, we used the data vault.
the problems stem from the lack of accountability and auditability of the drugs during shipping, all the way down to the buyers (the local pharmacies). they have no way of knowing when they purchase the drugs, or receive a shipment, to understand if the drugs are real, or are fake. furthermore, the end-user or customer who purchases cheap drugs from the internet, or get’s them from their local trusted source, has no mechanism for verifying their authenticity, or understanding where and when the drugs were manufactured, and where they came from.
congress (about 4 years ago) originally mandated a policy for all drug manufacturers that sold drugs in the us to provide some form of traceability for each package of drugs that was to be shipped to the store front. from blister packs to liquids, to individual pills sold at your local gas stations. it was a great plan, we (a team of us) were tasked with building machines that “tagged” the drugs on the manufacturing line, creating fully unique id’s, fed those tags to a global (but centralized) data vault warehouse (real-time web-services feeds). then, tracked the drugs as the tags were scanned from the supply chain all the way through consumer delivery.
someone in their own home could then go to a special web-site, enter the specialized bar code tag, and ping the global database to find out if the drug was real or counterfeit. now, there were lots of problems to be solved along the way, but with the congressional mandate (that by 2010 all manufacturers, suppliers, and delivery systems had to be compliant) everything was hunky dory so they say.
unfortunately, with pressure from the drug lobby and from the state of california (which had the most pressure to comply because they were going live first), they defeated the bill. the end-result? our project got cancelled.
but, along the way i built a data vault model. one that would provide the world-wide data warehouse with secure access to information. the servers were due to be placed inside biometric cages with finger print readers, and were due to be stored in langley, virginia data centers (along with some other very important systems). i had built an architecture to protect (as best we could) the data from the web-servers and web-services, along with keeping the drug manufacturers data independently safe, so that each manufacturer could be sure that their data could not be viewed (even by employees of the company i was working for).
only congress had the authority to put together a master list of drug identification numbers for authenticity and auditing purposes. i would like to share this story with you, how we did it, what we built, and how you can make it happen (that is if you’re interested).
please let me know if you’d like to know more by registering (free) and leaving me a comment below. our team was about 5 people in total. in the end, the important thing is we proved it could be done, we had a fully functioning working prototype, we were ready – the drug manufacturers were not.
ps: i guess this story is as much about data vault, as it is building a successful data vault for a world-wide venture. more specifically, the “data vault” finally lives up to it’s true name, in that it becomes a “highly secured, classified place where data was to be locked away.