With vaccine programs slowing down, at least in the United States, and social pace measures slowing, the recently expected physical return appears to be on the horizon. But there will be no turning back to business as usual. Among the most important new elements of post-pandemic travel – especially in the early stages of recovery, with entry controls still in place – will require vaccinations and / or negative test results to gain jurisdiction or center special. To meet that need, a number of stakeholders have in recent months issued “digital health permits” designed to ensure that a traveler meets the relevant entry criteria.
But while such passports promise to play an important role in driving physical travel, especially internationally, there are still many questions to be answered and concerns addressed. These include issues of data security, protection of user privacy, interoperability and equality. The challenges in that regard are significant, but stakeholders across the physical travel ecosystem see the potential of digital health passporting in boosting industry productivity and using technology in a number of ways to address them and support the safe resumption of travel.
Blockchain Banking, Biometrics
The digital passports that have grown over the past few months share a few key similarities, such as using a smartphone approach and building a network of partner medical providers. and laboratories to provide the vaccines and tests.
But there are also a number of key differences, with the different passports using different design models and technology frameworks to achieve the same overall goal. In some cases, that combination reflects the unique capabilities of the specific providers building and supporting these solutions.
Given the high level of compliance risk associated with the storage and handling of personal data – particularly in the European Union, which has particularly strict rules codified under the Common Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – maintaining the security and privacy of the sensitive medical information stored in it digital passports are required. Some passport providers have worked to ensure that such protections are in place by storing data on decentralized and anonymous blockchain-based systems.
Passports using this approach include the IBM Digital Health Passport, the MyHealthPass Certus from Swiss security provider SICPA and the AOKpass, developed by the International Chamber of Commerce and SOS International travel risk management expert and is now being piloted by several airlines, including Air France and Etihad.
“In the blockchain approach we have implemented, no data will be exchanged. It does not leave the [individual user’s] phone, and it is not stored anywhere else, “said Sebastien Bedu, airport services product manager for MedAire, an ISOS aviation and maritime subsidiary that operates on AOKpass.
Instead, the data is kept in a decentralized format throughout the process, from the medical lab to the passport holder’s smartphone, where it is encoded into a code. A QR that can be scanned at an airport check-in or at immigration control when you reach a vaccine confirmation or a negative test. If the app is removed from the phone, all connected information will be erased along with it, according to Bedu.
“Blockchain has enabled us to operate in a highly regulated environment,” Bedu continued, citing strict EU rules. “We have implemented, from the outset, all elements of GDPR restrictions … and the blockchain was at that base. ”
At the same time, other passports include biometric identification capability to access health data, and further guarantee that the carrier of the digital passport is the only person to whom to give.
The International Air Transport Association is using this approach with its Travel Pass app, which launched in mid-March its first full-time trial, with Singapore Airlines. The Passport is largely built on IATA’s existing single ID concept, in which passengers use biometric identifiers rather than paper documents for travel.
“We were already working on the ability to create a biometric identity.… We basically found out what work we were doing with One ID and put Covid’s requirements above it,” said Anish Chand, deputy director for IATA entry requirement registration service.
Users create a digital identity within the Travel Pass app by taking a photo of themselves, which is proven against a traditional passport using face recognition technology. Once the digital ID has been created, users will be directed to labs or sites where they can receive a vaccine or test, with records subsequently returned to Timatic. The rules engine then compares the data with the relevant requirements at a particular destination and, if the requirements are met, agrees the trip within the app by displaying green check signal. At airport registration or border control, the user displays the app, and the agent verifies that the image in the app matches the person displaying the passport .
But while the Travel Pass currently exists as a separate app, the ultimate plan is to integrate their capabilities into the flagship apps of airlines themselves. There are a number of reasons behind that decision, according to Chand – most of which are not airlines’ desire to own the relationship with their customers.
“Our member airlines were very clear that they wanted the experience to be within their own app,” Chand said. “And we thought it didn’t make sense to have another app in place. the passenger had to be downloaded. “
I am concerned about the additional impact of a passport… which will enable those who are vaccinated to do things that other people cannot. ”
– Dr. Adrian Hyzler at Healix International
Cooperation or Uncertainty
The question of where exactly “live” passports are – as stand-alone apps, part of airline apps or other possible integrations, such as with online bookings – is another key issue that remains to be resolved.
Adding to the added complexity is the fact that some digital passports are designed not only to get to a particular country but also to get to a particular event or place, increasing the number of passports a passenger can hold.
One such passport is CommonPass, from the Swiss nonprofit The Commons Project Foundation and the World Economic Forum. As well as being among the most widely used passports to date by airlines – backed by JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss International Airlines, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic – CommonPass is also focused on access to destinations, a matter of use expect more common as larger corporate resume events and meetings.
“We need to show some sort of vaccine demonstration or demonstration to access many places in the future, and you need to be able to do that in a way that is reliable and private,” he said. CommonPass president, Simon Talling -Smith.
In early March, CommonPass significantly expanded its footprint by partnering with Clear identity and access provider, whose systems are used by nearly 50 U.S. facilities and organizations to verify make Covid-related access protocols.
While consumer-based mobile apps may dominate in the early stages of the passport, integration is likely to have a greater impact behind businesses in the future, as Talling-Smith expected.
“An app is only part of the story; more importantly what’s hidden beneath that, and we expect CommonPass to be rooted in many, many third-party applications and processes,” said Talling-Smith, announcing the PreCheck Administration program US Transportation Security. as an educational module on how CommonPass could work quickly – and invisibly – across multiple locations in the future.
What about equality?
While the potential promises and benefits of a digital health passport are clear, one inherent shortcoming that cannot be addressed by technology alone is the risk that entry and exit requirements will be based on ability to test vaccines or negative risks Covid status creates two “classes”. of passengers – those who can and who cannot, some observers have warned.
“I am concerned about the additional effects of a… passport that will enable those on the vaccine to do things that other people cannot,” said Dr Adrian Hyzler, chief medical officer at Healix International travel risk counseling. ”This type of protective benefit will disadvantage many people, many of whom have already suffered from inequality and discrimination, not only because of Covid, but going back long before the epidemic. “
That demographic includes those who don’t have easy access to adopted test and vaccine networks, and / or the technology to carry a digitally-based passport, the doctor said.
“Let’s not forget that 3.4 billion people worldwide do not have internet access and over 1 billion people do not have a cell phone of any kind,” Hyzler noted.
Adding another layer of complexity is that several Covid vaccines have been manufactured, some of which have not been authorized to specific jurisdictions for various reasons – which could lead to countries removing carriers. -travel because they were receiving an inappropriate vaccine.
Given the potential for such inequality to arise, “it is my view that vaccine status should be one of the hallmarks of entry quarantine requirements, in conjunction with natural immunity and testing,” advised Hyzler, adds that such a multifaceted approach to prevention is not only fairer, but also more effective.
“A protective measure is not fully defensive,” Hyzler said, “but each blocking device is placed on top of the next, and together they form a stronger barrier.”