The IATA has announced a digital COVID passport that can keep users’ data secure on the blockchain. This could make travel during pandemic-times easier.
Blockchain Leading the Way
In December 2020, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) let the world know how to screen patients without invading their privacy. IATA said it would release a digital health credentialing platform that could open international travel without quarantines.
The new Travel Pass technology is unique and important in that it uses blockchain to store users’ data. This ensures that there is no central database, which means there is (theoretically) no way to hack the data and steal personal health information.
Alan Murray Hayden, who headed the development of the IATA Travel Pass technology, said that this tech is “powerful” and “probably one of the first-ever examples of blockchain technology being implemented in a way that benefits people.”
Travel Pass is a mobile app that lets users store their health status, including COVID-19 screenings and vaccines. This can be hooked up to health networks for governments as a reliable indicator of health status.
Health passports were not born in coronavirus-times, but the pandemic has brought the technology to the forefront. Why should agents bar vaccinated or immune people from going about their lives?
A blockchain-backed identifier could let travelers safely and securely prove their health status and board that plane.
A New Kind of Passport
Now, Etihad Airways says it may be the first airline to implement the IATA travel pass. The Abu Dhabi-based airline said it could use the Travel Pass to meet government requirements of COVID-19 tests and vaccines.
At first, Etihad will use Travel Pass on some flights from Abu Dhabi during Q1, 2021. If all goes well, it will expand the tech to the greater flight network.
In a press release, Etihad Airways said that this technology could eventually store all documentation needed during a passenger’s journey.
Indeed, Etihad has been conservative when it comes to COVID, requiring negative PCR tests for passengers since Aug 1, 2020. It was the only airline to do so.
Etihad says it actively campaigns for the collaboration and standardization of regulatory responses to help heal the airline industry after the blow to the world’s travel economy.
With the immutability of the blockchain, documentation and health information can theoretically be stored securely and privately. Laws about health information privacy, especially in the United States, are stringent.
This can make storing health information impractical and expensive. Some estimates say that compliance with these laws cost US physicians $35,000 annually each.
As for the IATA Travel Pass, it uses several different modules to track user data. These can identify entry requirements for certain countries and offer certificates and digital identity documents.
The technology promises easy access to required documentation on any smartphone. Blockchain companies such as CIVIC have long promised a blockchain solution to identity problems.
Likewise, Solve.Care has forayed into the complex world of healthcare information. The future may hold more of this type of technology if entry requirements remain strict and commonplace.