The International Air Travel Association will soon carry out blockchain-based passports that digitally store health records for individuals—specifically, their COVID-19 testing and vaccination status.
In a breakthrough that IATA claims have the potential to re-open international and loosen current global quarantine restrictions, a “health” passport will be stored in a user’s smartphone in the form of an app, with the first real-world trials planned for February.
Known as the IATA Travel Pass and presented as a means of allowing travelers full control over their own records, the app will also serve as a two-way contact platform that would relay information to relevant governments, vaccination centers, and airlines.
To date, four big airlines have signed up to the scheme. Singapore Airlines and British Airways are preparing to commence the first phase of testing in February, while Etihad and Emirates are reportedly preparing to begin in April.
Alan Murray Hayden, Head of Airport, Passenger and Security Products at IATA, lauded the use of “powerful” blockchain technology in the scheme, adding that it has been one of the few technology deployments to date that has had a direct beneficial effect:
“This is the beauty of the technology we’re using; it puts the passenger in complete control of their data. There’s no central database and nobody can hack it. The passenger owns their data and they share it with the airline. It’s so powerful and it’s probably one of the first ever examples of blockchain technology being implemented in a way that benefits people.”
The Travel Pass will feature four key interactive components: a digital passport module; a Lab app that enables data to be submitted safely via the research laboratories and the app itself; a global register of vaccine centers and a global registry of up-to-date health standards required by foreign travelers at any given time.
If the passenger’s health and vaccine status match international standards, then, Hayden said, the passenger will be best advised to leave.
“So, now passengers have three key things on their phone — their digital passports, test results, and what we call an ‘okay to travel’. Passengers can then choose whether to share this data on the airline app. They will be prompted to submit their data and if they click on submit it will be sent to the airline. This is simple from a passenger perspective — literally with the click of a couple of buttons the airline now has all passenger’s details, and they’re 100% sure that the passenger is okay to fly.”
Etihad airline passengers flying out of Abu Dhabi will be the first to be offered the use of digital passports in Q1 2021.
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