Electronic travel passes.

By | Category: Travel news

For the foreseeable future, how we fly could well be dictated by whether we have been tested and or vaccinated.

many “health” passports have QR codes. How secure are they?

If that is so how do we prove that we have been tested or vaccinated? Do we carry various bits of paper along with copies in case different airlines, government bodies or hotels want copies?

The answer would appear to be an online “health wallet” or an app. The problem with apps is that there are still many million who don’t have smart phones. The problem with an online wallet is that there are people with no computer access other than via their local libraries.

There is going to have to be an amalgam of online, app and mobile so that everyone can carry the notifications with them It will be a like my old health passport which carried my typhoid and yellow fever jabs.

Greece has been at the forefront of pushing an EU wide digital vaccination certificate allowing tourism to start up again. This idea was discussed by EU leaders this week but they appear to have deferred taking action.

But EU leaders were told, it won’t stop the unvaccinated travelling. They just have to have PCR tests but that approach seems to be contradictory for PCR tests give no security for other travellers. They just confirm that at that single testing point, a person showed no signs of COVID-10.

While the EU talks, industry has been developing similar solutions.

IATA has gone most of the way in developing a Travel Pass in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because it has built it on software widely used by airlines, compatibility amongst the world’s airlines should be easy.

It is a mobile app that has four components.

The first is that a registry of health requirements will enable passengers to find accurate information on travel, testing and vaccine requirements for their journey. Given that countries require different tests, the registry can determine if the traveller’s test type and timings are appropriate to the itinerary.
Then it has a registry of testing and vaccination centres so passengers can find labs that meet the requirements of the destination government.
Thirdly, IATA and its software partner, Evernym, have built an app that enables testing labs to securely send test results or vaccination certificates to passengers.
Finally, the system has a consumer-facing app that travellers, the Travel Pass, which stores a digital version of their passport and test results. Travellers can also share those results with the airline and authorities at the destination. 
Emirates is trialling the system from April onwards on flights out of Dubai.

An alternative is theVaccination Credential Initiative, developed by partners like Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, The Commons Project Foundation, Mayo Clinic so the pedigree is strong.   The idea is to give passengers the ability to store an encrypted copy of their immunisation details in a digital wallet of their choice, such as Apple Wallet or Google Pay. Those without smartphones could receive paper printed with QR codes verifiable credentials.

American Airlines has its own system, VeriFLY but this currently only works for those flying into the USA. But it has been tested on routes in South America and the Caribbean. This is an app that allows passengers to upload a negative test result and other documentation needed for cross-border entry.  Similar to IATA’s Travel Pass, it also serves as a library for international travellers on what restrictions and requirements are imposed at their destinations.

Finally, a British company VST Enterprises has its ‘Fit to Fly secure health passport designed for air travel and which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play by searching for ‘VPassport’

The VST system

The company claims that is the  world’s first publicly available secure digital health passport that the public can download and use alongside any form of Covid 19 testing and vaccination. There is a difference over the Vaccination Credential Initiative in that it doesn’t use unsecure bar codes and QR code technology.

Why is that important?

Because it will be more secure and less open to a cyber-attack such as the system used by former Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, when his bar codes and QR codes proved insecure and his passport, mobile phone and messages with the airline he was flying on were downloaded.

The VST system should also be able to tell fake COVID-19 certificates from real ones, a feature which might endear the system to many countries. It also doesn’t track your live location details, it keeps all data in a secure GDPR compliant framework and gives you control of who, when and how and when your data is shared.

With four systems (and probably more about to be launched) passengers and probably governments would prefer one solution that will be acceptable anywhere in the world. But with so many powerful players which will become the standard and which ones will airlines accept or refuse? Or will we be able to use whichever we prefer?

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