Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

New York, IBM begin testing Covid-19 digital health pass

Built on IBM's blockchain-based Digital Health Pass application, the New York app is getting a test run at Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden.

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IBM and New York State over the weekend began a pilot program to test their forthcoming Covid-19 "digital health pass." Dubbed the "Excelsior Pass," the blockchain-based application is designed to give New York residents a secure way to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test result or certification of vaccination.

On Saturday, a group of predetermined participants used the app to gain entry into the Brooklyn Nets basketball game at Barclays Center. Today, a group of volunteers will use it to gain entry to the New York Rangers hockey game at Madison Square Garden.

The app, and its companion verification app, are built on IBM's Digital Health Pass application, which was lauched in October. The Digital Health Pass uses blockchain to preserve privacy and allow individuals to store, manage and share their health status from mobile devices. Users will be able to either print out their pass or store it on their smartphones. Each pass will have a secure QR code, which venues will scan using the companion app. 

The IBM app can tap into multiple data sources, and its open architecture will allow other states and organizations to adopt it. The results of the New York pilot program will be used to improve the app before it's submitted to Apple and Google's respective app stores.

Already, Salesforce said it will integrate the IBM Digital Health Pass with Work.com, the platform that Salesforce quickly stood up to help companies manage COVID-19 safety.

For states, the app will effectively serve as a way to maintain public safety in spaces where people congregate -- such as airports, sports stadiums and amusement parks -- while the pandemic persists. Last month, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan to reopen major stadiums and arenas, which requires all staff and spectators to receive a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of an event.

"The Excelsior Pass will play a critical role in getting information to venues and sites in a secure and streamlined way, allowing us to fast-track the reopening of these businesses and getting us one step closer to reaching a new normal," Cuomo said in a statement.

Prior and related coverage: