NFTs have real-world use cases. Not all are worthwhile.

NFTs have real-world use cases.  Not all are worthwhile.
NFTs have real-world use cases.  Not all are worthwhile.

  • Drexel Medical College uses Algorand to store patient records as NFTs
  • The Nemus NFT project “asked the indigenous people, who can barely read, to sign documents without clarifying the content or providing a copy,” a prosecutor said.

Much is made of whether NFTs have real-world use cases. But just because a use case exists doesn’t mean it should be used.

As Facebook tries to bring the digital art application of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) to its users, this week saw two new NFT use cases make waves – but for contrasting reasons. While NFTs brought patients ownership of their medical records, an NFT protecting the Amazon rainforest faces questions about how it acquired the land it sells.

Blockchain healthcare company MaPay and Drexel University College of Medicine are using the layer-1 blockchain Algorand to store patient records as NFTs. Currently, healthcare professionals store medical records themselves – leading to expensive and slow paper acquisition and sale of patients’ medical data.

At a basic level, NFTs store and signify ownership of digital goods without third parties. By putting health data on the blockchain, patients gain ownership of their records – so it moves forward – and makes retrieval more efficient.

Charles Cairns, vice president of Drexel’s medical school, believes the future of the medical industry lies in blockchain technology.

“This initiative will be transformative, especially in underserved areas. It’s not a question of whether this should be done. It’s a response that it needs to be done for the future of medicine,” Cairns said after the partnership announcement.

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Nemus and its ‘non-fungible territory’

Nemus, an NFT coin linked to Amazon rainforest conservation, is in hot water after a Brazilian prosecutor announced an investigation into the company’s ownership of Amazon land.

Nemus’ managing director Flavio De Meira Penna has several entrepreneurial ventures focusing on rainforest conservation in Brazil. Nemus claims to own 100,000 acres of Amazon rainforest and hopes to buy more with funds from the NFT sale. The company did not respond to requests for confirmation that it owns the land.

Users can purchase NFTs that represent plots of land on a map with the understanding that Nemus will protect the land and its indigenous people.

Nemus is clear that users do not own the physical land due to the limitations of Brazilian law, and says that the company holds the land instead. But even that much ownership can be wishful thinking.

Prosecutors from Brazil’s federal public ministry announced last week that Nemus has fifteen days to prove its ownership of the land after indigenous people complained of being tricked into selling land to the NFT project.

“The company delivered a sign to the villages, written in English, and asked the indigenous people, who can barely read, to sign documents without clarifying the content or providing a copy,” prosecutors wrote.

Nemus and Drexel Medical College indicate an emerging frontier in the discourse surrounding NFT use cases. Sean Stein Smith, an assistant professor at Lehman College who writes about the digital assets, believes debates about the usefulness of NFT technology have already been played out.

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“On the point of trying to wait for the ‘real-world applications’ of NFTs — those applications are here,” Smith said. “Do they create benefits from an economic and wider societal point of view?” is ultimately how any project should be judged.”

Nemus did not respond to a request for comment.


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  • Jack Kubinec

    Blockwork

    Editorial intern

    Jack Kubinec is an intern in the Blockworks editorial team. He is a rising senior at Cornell University where he has written for the Daily Sun and serves as editor-in-chief of the Cornell Claritas. Contact Jack at [email protected]

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