One of the first hurdles that nations around the world faced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was how to keep track of people that patients came in contact with before testing positive for the coronavirus. Contact tracing became almost the perfect opportunity for technology, especially mobile and cloud, to make things easier. Now that vaccinations are underway, a new need has risen, the need to keep track of who has gotten their shots already. Again putting technology to use, New York State just launched the Excelsior Pass, perhaps one of if not the first COVID-19 “passport” to be deployed to the public.
Tracking data is something that today’s technology is great at, sometimes for not-so-innocent purposes even. There have been various forms of contact tracing tech and apps that have been used by different governments and organizations but the most common ones revolve around making use of smartphones and apps. Now the same is being done for keeping track of COVID-19 testing and vaccination statuses, at least in the state of New York.
Developed together with IBM, Excelsior Pass, named after the state’s motto, is one of the first so-called COVID-19 passports to be deployed en masse. Like a regular passport, it will be a sort of ticket for events and establishments that are starting to open within the state. New York has made it mandatory to have a negative COVID-19 test result for large events and venues and the Excelsior Pass is meant to make it convenient to store that data and show it when needed.
Users of the Excelsior Pass app can opt to either print the QR code that verifies their negative result or vaccination status or keep the data in the app’s “Wallet”. Businesses will also have to download a companion app that they will use to scan the QR code to verify that data before granting entry.
As with contact tracing apps, privacy is one of the biggest concerns over such methods of storing and sharing people’s information. The QR code generated by Excelsior Pass only continues information about the validity of the pass and not the user’s personal information. Of course, the use of Excelsior Pass itself is optional but New Yorkers will still need to present the required test results of vaccination status for those gatherings and events.