New York has rolled out a so-called COVID-19 passport based on International Business Machine Corp.’s blockchain-based digital health pass technology.
The app, called “Excelsior Pass” and the first of its kind to go live in the U.S., will allow users to use a QR code to prove their COVID-19 vaccination status. In a growing trend, some venues are now requesting proof of vaccination for entry and in New York State, those who have been vaccinated are able to hold larger gatherings such as weddings.
Excelsior Pass is described as similar to a mobile airline boarding pass in that individuals will be able to either print out their pass or store in their smartphones using the app. Every business or venue can scan the pass (the QR code) via a companion app to verify their COVID-19 negative results or proof of vaccination.
On its initial launch, the app will be first be used at venues including Madison Square Garden in New York City and the Time Union Center in Albany.
“New Yorkers have proven they can follow public health guidance to beat back COVID and the innovative Excelsior Pass is another tool in our new toolbox to fight the virus while allowing more sectors of the economy to reopen safely and keeping personal information secure,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
The use of IBM’s digital health pass is a boost for IBM’s blockchain division after rumors emerged in February that the company had greatly scaled back the division. The rumors were denied by IBM and as noted at the time the division continued to sign deals including working with Salesforce Inc. on implementing its digital health pass platform. That New York is now using the technology and is the first in the nation to do so sets up IBM well as a preferred vendor of COVID-19 passports.
IBM Digital Health Pass is a secure verification system built on blockchain technology that makes it possible to verify people’s health status based on certain criteria such as test results, vaccination records and temperature checks.
Once a vaccine has been administered, that individual will receive a verifiable health credential stored in a digital wallet on their smartphone that can be shared using the Digital Health Pass. That is said to enable people to control whom they share their data with while protecting their privacy and ensures their health records cannot be tampered with.
IBM does have competition in the space, however. As U.S. Today notes, open-source advocates have been developing a competing system as has Walmart Inc. who is offering digital proof of vaccination to anyone who gets a shot in one of its pharmacies. The key here, going forward, is that one of them will eventually become the default technology of choice; with IBM working with one of the largest states in the Union, it’s arguably already moving into the lead.
Photo: New York Governor’s Office
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