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[Herald Interview] Young CEO pushes the envelope in smart health care market

Health startup Astera adopts blockchain technology to help Koreans better utilize their medical data

In the digital health care industry, a host of startups such as Astera, Humanscape and MediBloc are introducing new health care services and platforms based on blockchain technology.

But South Korea’s smart health care sector has yet to reach the level of growth seen in the US and China, due mainly to strict regulations on cloud services and related technology.

As data can only be stored at medical institutions in Korea, patients cannot retrieve their medical information easily and must go to a hospital in person to do so. Currently, patient information and data cannot be shared with medical institutions abroad and can only be stored at designated hospitals or medical centers. 

(Video shot and produced by Lim Jeong-yeo/The Korea Herald)

“Such inconvenience, especially for millennials, can create another problem in which Koreans only visit hospitals when it is too late,” Jung Jae-ho, CEO of Astera, said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

Jung said Astera’s use of blockchain technology is aimed at solving that exact problem so that members of the public have access to their medical information, allowing them to manage and monitor their health more efficiently. 

Launched in May 2018, the startup is a spin-off project from another fintech and IoT startup called X Engineering, which developed and patented what is called Magnetic Flux Emulation technology. The solution provides an offline payment solution for device manufacturers.

The 29-year-old CEO currently works with eight other people, including the entire team from X Engineering. The team boasts over 30 years of hardware and software engineering experience, some of its members having worked at tech giants such as Sony and LG Electronics.

Smart scale
Smart scale "Astera B" (Astera)

Asked how Astera’s platform utilizes blockchain technology, Jung said that big data sets on Koreans’ daily health will be collected initially via Astera’s smart scale, called the “Astera B.”

Users who step on the smart scales will be able to monitor their daily biorhythms and at the same time receive a special form of cryptocurrency called “AST.” The token can be then used to purchase various items, such as gym memberships, facials and spa packages and health foods from companies that have established partnerships with the startup.

Aside from the Astera B, the engineers at Astera are developing two other devices, called the Astera K and S, which will help customers get more “in tune with their bodies.” Astera K enables users to comprehend their DNA data through urine, saliva and hair tests, while Astera S monitors sleep cycles. 

Astera CEO Jung Jae-ho (Lim Jeong-yo/The Korea Herald)
Astera CEO Jung Jae-ho (Lim Jeong-yo/The Korea Herald)

“Data is the currency that is invaluable today and will be more valuable to future generations. And, this is not just in the monetary sense,” he said.

With so much data being collected every second, information that a human body produces can be used to produce a customized health program, according to Jung.

Furthermore, Jung and his colleagues believe that “IoT products (such as Astera’s smart scale) will dominate future industries in a way that brings more convenience to people’s lives.” 

By Catherine Chung (