From 4 October, the Ministry of Health will begin trialling use of Near Field Communications (NFC) tags with the NZ COVID Tracer app at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington and a number of small businesses.
People with a compatible phone and the latest version of the NZ COVID Tracer app will be able to hold their phone against a small NFC tag to record a diary entry. They will just need to unlock their phone and hold it near the tag, which will automatically open the app and add the diary entry. The app displays the green success screen to confirm a successful entry. The NFC tags will usually be placed near existing QR code posters, so they will be easy to find.
“This trial is part of our ongoing commitment to investigate technologies that enhance and support our COVID-19 response,” says Shayne Hunter, Deputy Director-General Data & Digital at the Ministry of Health.
“Keeping a digital diary of the places we’ve visited can really help with rapid contact tracing when a case of COVID-19 is detected. We already have a private, easy way to do that with the NZ COVID Tracer app, so we’ll be looking to see in this trial if NFC tags can make the app even easier to use.”
The trial will run for up to four weeks and will inform decisions about a potential wider rollout. The NFC technology will not replace QR codes. Phones which don’t support the NFC functionality can still scan QR codes to record entries in their digital diaries.
Phil O’Connell, Director Safety, Risk and Assurance at Te Herenga Waka, says the university is pleased to partner with the Ministry of Health to trial a new technology that will enhance and support New Zealand’s response to COVID-19.
“Our community of staff and students are good adopters of new technologies, given our focus on research and new knowledge. This trial, aimed at making it easy for New Zealanders to keep track of where they’ve been, fits with our university’s commitment to innovation and new knowledge that can help solve key issues that face us.”
Adding a diary entry via NFC tag will have the same privacy protections as scanning and using Bluetooth tracing with the app. All data will be stored on the user’s phone, until they choose to share it. People are only asked to share their digital diary if they test positive for COVID-19.
There are now more than 3 million NZ COVID Tracer app users and over 2 million users have enabled Bluetooth tracing.
“Thank you to everyone who is routinely using the NZ COVID Tracer app and those who are keeping regular notes and diaries. Your efforts are helping New Zealand’s response to COVID-19 and making contact tracing an easier task,” says Mr Hunter.
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