Excelsior Pass to help US fans ‘pass’ muster


Mobile covid pass for Madison Square Garden Image: ny.gov

New York (US) Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on March 3rd, 2021 a pilot program to test the Excelsior Pass during events at Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center in New York.

The ‘New York State’ website stated that first announced in the Governor’s 2021 State of the State address and developed in partnership with the computer hardware company IBM, the Excelsior Pass will use proven, secure technology to confirm an individual’s vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test through a confidential data transfer to facilitate fast-track reopening of theaters, stadiums and other businesses in harmony with New York State guidelines. This new technology was successfully tested during the initial phase of the pilot during the American professional basketball team Brooklyn Nets game at Barclays Center on February 27th, 2021.

The 20,789-capacity Madison Square Garden, colloquially known as The Garden or in initials as MSG, is a multipurpose indoor arena in New York City (US).

The 19,000-capacity Barclays Center is a multipurpose indoor arena in the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The arena is home to the Brooklyn Nets of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Similar to a mobile airline boarding pass, individuals will be able to either print out their pass or store it on their smartphones using the Excelsior Pass’s ‘Wallet App’. Each pass will have a secure QR code, which venues will scan using a companion app to confirm an individual’s COVID-19 health status as coronavirus cases are still on the rise in the United States with the deadly virus wiping out more than half a million lives in the world’s most powerful nation.

The results of the pilot program will be used to enhance the quality of the application, maximizing return on investment and saving development time, prior to submission to Apple and Google to get their nod to go into their app stores.

A statement of Governor Cuomo on the ‘New York State’ website read, “We’re doing everything we can to vaccinate as many New Yorkers as possible, as quickly as possible, while keeping the infection rate down and re-energizing our economy in a safe, smart way. As we begin reopening the valves on different sectors of our economy, we are putting guidelines in place to ensure individuals attending events involving larger gatherings have tested negative for COVID or have been vaccinated to avoid an outbreak of the virus. 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.”

While some businesses have been able to operate by reducing capacity or by having their employees work from home, many others, like performing arts and sporting events with fans, which involve large, dense gatherings, have only just been able to reopen under strict health and safety guidelines. As more New Yorkers are being vaccinated, these activities will be permitted to resume in tune with new public health guidelines, and this new mobile app can help to further fast-track the reopening of these venues.

As part of major stadium and arena reopening guidelines announced by the Governor on February 10th, venues must ensure that all staff and spectators receive a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours of the event in order to gain access to the stadia. During this pilot program, a subset of predetermined participants will be able to use the pass to confirm their recent negative COVID-19 test and gain entry to these events at Barclays Center and Madison Square Garden.

Robust privacy protections are woven throughout the digital health pass solution, giving individuals a secure, verifiable and trusted way to maintain control of their personal health information using an encrypted digital smartphone wallet or printed credential. Each participant will be able to determine if they would like to use it, and if so, what passes they wish to use for which purpose – all without sharing their underlying personal data. User data is always kept completely confidential, and participation is voluntary. The QR code only informs the venue if a pass is valid or invalid.

Opined Steve LaFleche, General Manager, IBM Public and Federal Market, “This solution can provide New York and other States a simple, secure and voluntary method for showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test result or certification of vaccination. IBM is proud to support the State of New York with its efforts to apply innovative technologies to help residents and communities respond to COVID-19.”

Maintained James Dolan, Executive Chairman, MSG Sports and Executive Chairman and CEO, MSG Entertainment, “We are pleased to partner with the State on this important pilot, which we hope will be another step forward in helping New York City to reopen.”

Stated John Abbamondi, CEO, BSE Global, “We applaud the State for developing the Excelsior Pass, which we believe can help New Yorkers quickly return to venues while keeping them safe from COVID-19. Barclays Center and the Nets are proud to participate in this effort.”

The Excelsior Pass and its companion verification app are built on IBM’s Digital Health Pass solution and are designed to enable the verification of health credentials such as test results and vaccination records. Using blockchain technology, individuals will be able to voluntarily share their health status through an encrypted digital wallet on their smartphone without the need to share underlying medical and personal information. The technology is flexible and built to scale, allowing other States to join and help foster a safer, trusted transition to a post-pandemic reality.

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