As some cities in the United States begin to require proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, events, and workplaces, smartphone makers such as Apple (AAPL), Samsung (SSNLF), and Google (GOOG) are developing ways for users to show their Covid-19 vaccine status with just a tap.
Following a failed attempt last year at contact tracing apps, which used Bluetooth technology to alert people if they were in close proximity with someone who tested positive for the virus, this could be Big Tech’s shot at making a dent with pandemic solution tools. Issues with measuring proximity while keeping data anonymous, notifications that failed to trigger, and slow adoption rates among states plagued those products.
On paper, this latest effort appears to be much simpler, but the companies must contend with a crowded app market as well as the possibility of privacy concerns among some Americans.
Vaccine passports are gaining popularity. How to use your phone to prove your Covid-19 vaccination status Samsung recently announced that Galaxy device users can load their vaccination record into the Samsung Pay digital wallet from the CommonHealth app, which was created by the Commons Project Foundation, the same healthcare nonprofit that works with some airlines for proof of vaccination. Users verify their identity and gain access to their status from the pharmacy or healthcare provider who provided their shot, unlike some apps that don’t check if uploaded vaccine cards are legitimate.
Users would no longer have to choose from a plethora of available vaccine verification apps, some of which are more reliable than others.
“If Big Tech has specific apps they will work with, then this would go a long way to cut down on the volume of app solutions that are currently flooding the market,” said Sam Gazeley, digital research analyst at ABI Research. “It would help to a degree by removing the risk of fraudulent certification from forged documents entering circulation.”
Some privacy experts have criticized some vaccine verification apps, such as New York City’s NYC Safe app, for being a “dressed-up camera app,” allowing users to upload photos of their vaccine card — or anything — and leaving it up to business owners to determine if it’s real. (To date, countless fake vaccine cards have been sold on the dark web, and thousands of fakes have been seized by US border patrol.)
Apps like the CommonHealth app and IBM’s New York Excelsior Pass app provide a scannable QR code for entry at various businesses in addition to verifying vaccine status. They don’t show any personal information other than whether or not the person was shot.
According to some experts, companies like Samsung, Google, and Apple could play a key role in bringing the private and public sectors together to create verifiable credentials.