Windsor selected for testing of international health passport

Monday, August 31, 2020

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell


The block chain firm OneLedger has chosen Windsor to launch a test of its concept for an international health passport aimed at helping open up the border and the economy for essential workers. The passport would be a secure app downloaded to a smartphone.

“It will be another tool in the arsenal of things to help the border open safely and securely,” said Noah Campbell, Tech Community Program Manager for the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corporation and WEtech Alliance.

“It’ll make it easier for essential workers in healthcare and manufacturing to cross the border in a safe and secure manner that helps stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Toronto’s OneLedger is expected to have the app ready for testing within two weeks. The company hopes to launch the app for use in the early fourth quarter of 2020.

Campbell said the project would involve 50 to 100 people and that OneLedger is looking to hire some of the talent needed from the University of Windsor.

In addition to WEEDC and WEtech, also partnering with OneLedger are the Ontario Centres for Excellence, the Autonomous Vehicle Integration Network (AVIN) and the Institute for Border Logistics and Security (IBLS).

“Windsor is an AVIN site with a focus on cyber and cross border security,” Campbell said. “They were looking for support and guidance.

“We’ve got the busiest border crossing and WEEDC and WEtech have partnerships on both sides of the border, so Windsor was the best place to test this.”

Campbell said government agencies are particularly interested in anything that involves opening up the border safely.

Discussions are already ongoing with the partners at the bi-national Future Borders Coalition, which studies ways of improving efficiency and security at the border.

There are also plans to reach out to the Henry Ford Healthcare system and the World Economic Forum on the project.

“We have seen plenty of applications released during COVID19 for tracking and tracing, all of which are reactive trying to detect who a person came in contact with after they already contracted COVID,” said Aly Kassam, Director of Product at OneLedger.

“None of these help reopen the economy, none of them have a proactive approach and that’s what we are trying to solve. We are trying to get back to a new normal.”

Canadian Association of Mold Makers chair Mike Bilton feels innovations such as a health passport will be a permanent new reality.

“This is exciting news,” Bilton said.

“Through our interaction and feedback with our manufacturing community via our webinar series surrounding cross border issues, we’re fully aware of the chatter and challenges that surround getting workers in manufacturing across in light of the COVID pandemic. Adding yet another layer of security and traceability can only help those travelling and those monitoring as such and working hard to reduce the spread as we move along.”

Campbell said by using OneLedger’s proprietary block chain service the highly sensitive health information will be secure. It will also be compatible with government passport and information systems, but would only allow border officials to access basic relevant health data.

“Border officials will only get yes or no answers to certain questions like are your vaccines up to date, have you tested positive and they’ll have no access to pre-existing conditions,” Campbell said.

“It’ll be a tool that helps them know you’re good to go.”

Campbell said though the initial aim of the app is to aid essential workers, he foresees a use for the passport in helping revive the travel industry when it’s safe to do so.