This Group Is Pirating Medical Device Standards and Sharing Them With DIY Projects

To license medical technical standards costs hundreds of dollars. The Human Standards Project is sharing them all in a huge torrent to fight the coronavirus.
April 13, 2020, 12:00pm
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Image: Aza Bo from Pexels

A pandemic is raging and America is short on medical supplies. New York City plans to start seizing unused ventilators, medical professionals are sharing a hack that can double ventilator capacity, and medical device manufacturers are fighting with the people trying to make it easier to repair the machines.

Now, a decentralized group of data hoarders called the Human Standards Project is pirating (where needed), collating, and otherwise making available medical information and technical standards that could help people working on solutions for the coronavirus pandemic.

Technical standards are specifications for services, systems, and equipment that ensure quality, safety, compatibility, and efficiency in manufacturing. Typically, people have to purchase technical standards from one of the private firms that creates them to view them.

ASTM International is one of the larger firms that standardizes medical equipment. Its 2020 book of information about medical and surgical equipment costs $314 for a print volume or $828 for a license for multiple people to view it online. ASTM International has publicly shared its standards for medical gowns, masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, and respirators. But it’s not the only firm setting standards, and much remains behind a paywall. The Human Standards Project is gathering decades worth of information from ASTM International and others and making it available online, for free. Technical standard information such as this will help the DIY community build their own medical equipment safely.

“These peer-to-peer collections include over 50,000 international technical standards to aid those innovators and creators in their efforts,” user shrine, who is working on the project, said in a post on Reddit. “The Standards help these teams ensure their work meets internationally agreed-upon specifications for product safety. Access to Standards means the difference between life and death in the developing world every day. In a worst-case scenario governments around the world may be forced to consult these volunteer DIY projects amidst global shortages. We must prepare for the worst-case scenario.”

The Human Standards Project is sharing its 75GB collection of technical standards via IPFS, a distributed peer-to-peer network built to share data. It’s also available as a torrent. The project needs help too. Its collection of data is incomplete and it’s hunting for specific information about medical equipment. You can join the hunt here.

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