There is a better way of rolling out vaccine passports, warn tech experts

Neil Garner of Thyngs (inset) on the use of QR codes when it comes to vaccine passports

Neil Garner of Thyngs (inset) on the use of QR codes when it comes to vaccine passports - Credit: PA/Archant

The debate about vaccine passports within the NHS app has once again reared its head - but tech experts have warned this is not the easiest or most secure way to rollout the policy.

Despite previous protestations from Westminster to the contrary, government advisors and MPs alike have begun re-examining the idea. 

Gavin Williamson said he would accept a passport to get back into hospitality and leisure venues and the deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam saying there are "plausible arguments" both for and against the idea. 

Whether such documentation comes to fruition or not, tech leaders who specialise in QR codes - the barcode method behind the trach and trace program - say there is a better way of going about it. 

This route is near-field communication (NFC) known best as the tech behind contactless payments on mobiles. 

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Dr Neil Garner is the founder of Norwich-based Thyngs, which specialises in the touch-free technologies, and said: “The pandemic sped up the adoption of contactless technology by about 18 months to two years – people had to learn how to use QR codes because otherwise they couldn’t check in via the NHS app otherwise.  

“When you’re in the pub and using the QR method you have to tap the code and then maybe download an app as well.

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"Instead I can see pubs simply having an NFC-enabled sticker you tap your phone on and from there you can verify yourself, check-in to the venue, order, pay, leave a tip – everything."

As well as being a more streamlined - and potentially accessible - approach, NFC is also a more secure method. 

Ellis Heighes, founder of Suffolk-based contactless e-commerce providers QueuePay, said: “We live in a world where people want to live efficiently as possible and NFC has more capabilities, is more streamlines and is more secure than QR codes.” 

But he added that government pay choose QR given the public's new-found confidence in the method: “I can see the government using QR codes again because they are now recognised for so many people.

"I don’t know how the tech would work when it comes to validating these passports or the operational side but it would make sense for them to use a proven method.” 

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