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New York deploys COVID-19 passport app built on blockchain

Inside Telecom Staff

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COVID-19 passport

New York City announced earlier this week the deployment of a new COVID-19 passport built on IBM’s blockchain-based health pass technology, as businesses in the U.S. are starting to request proof of vaccination or negative PCR for entry.

The COVID-19 passport app, called Excelsior Pass, is a free and voluntary platform developed in partnership with IBM, which utilizes proven, secure technology to confirm an individual’s recent negative PCR or antigen test result or proof of vaccination to help fast-track the reopening of businesses and event venues in accordance with New York State Department of Health guidelines, a statement by NYC Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

“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 Wallet app,” the statement noted.

Accordingly, each Pass will have a secure QR code, which participating businesses and venues can scan using a companion app to verify proof of COVID-19 negative test results or proof of vaccination. An individual’s data is always kept secure and confidential.

As part of this initial launch, participating New Yorkers may choose to use Excelsior Pass to verify their COVID-19 vaccination or negative test results as needed to gain entry to major stadiums and arenas, wedding receptions, or catered and other events above the social gathering limit, according to Gov. Cuomo.

Major venues have already announced they will begin utilizing this technology in the coming weeks, including Madison Square Garden in New York City beginning next week and the Times Union Center in Albany. Beginning April 2, Excelsior Pass will expand to smaller arts, entertainment, and event venues.

“New Yorkers have proven they can follow public health guidance to beat back COVID, and the innovative Excelsior Pass is another tool in our new toolbox to fight the virus while allowing more sectors of the economy to reopen safely and keeping personal information secure,” Governor Cuomo said.

“The question of ‘public health or the economy’ has always been a false choice — the answer must be both. As more New Yorkers get vaccinated each day and as key public health metrics continue to regularly reach their lowest rates in months, the first-in-the-nation Excelsior Pass heralds the next step in our thoughtful, science-based reopening,” he added.

It is important to note that New York State is the first state in the U.S. to formally launch this technology.

Prior to its launch, two successful pilot demonstrations were held in recent weeks, along with a beta test where thousands of New Yorkers participated in a limited roll out of the technology to provide feedback on user interface and results.

“In choosing a flexible and accessible tool that places security and privacy at its core, the state is modeling for the rest of the country how new, technology-enabled approaches can help safely reinvigorate economies while also striving to protect public health,” Steve LaFleche, General Manager, IBM Public and Federal Markets, said in a joint statement.

Excelsior Pass is built on IBM’s Digital Health Pass solution and is designed to enable the secure verification of health credentials such as test results and vaccination records 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. The pass can also be printed and is complementary to other types of proof that patrons can use, reducing any barriers to usage.

Secure technologies, like blockchain and encryption, are woven throughout Excelsior Pass to help protect the data, making it verifiable and trusted. No private health data is stored or tracked within the apps.

Multiple security systems are in place to ensure the integrity of personal health information.

It is worth mentioning that IBM’s deal with the State of New York is a major boost for the company’s blockchain division, which, according to reports made in February, that IBM had shrunk the department. The company dismissed these reports and continued attempting to land deals, such as the one with Salesforce Inc. to implement its digital health pass; however, the New York deal may pave the way for the company to become the go-to COVID-19 passport provider.

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The latest: vaccines to be made available at Alaska airports

Associated Press

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Alaska airports

JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy says COVID-19 vaccines would be made available at key airports in the state starting June 1.

He made the announcement Friday, as he unveiled plans aimed at bolstering Alaska’s pandemic-battered tourist industry.

Dunleavy, a Republican, outlined plans for a national marketing campaign aimed at luring tourists and said the vaccine offering is “probably another good reason to come to the state of Alaska in the summer.”

Dunleavy and other state leaders have been pushing to allow large cruise ships to return to Alaska after COVID-19 restrictions kept them away last year.

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2.7 million products on display at China’s digital Canton Trade Fair

Inside Telecom Staff

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Digital Canton Trade Fair

The China Import and Export Fair (Canton Fair) opened its 129th session on Wednesday, and what is its third digital exhibition. 260 thousand exhibitors present a record-breaking 2.7 million products across 16 categories, 82 thousand of which will be new products.

Exhibitors will showcase their products through cutting-edge digital presentations such as pictures, videos, 3D and livestreams, including 2,600 virtual reality showrooms and 137 online new product launches.

Xu Bing, spokesperson of the Canton Fair, noted that the 129th Canton Fair, built on the previous two digital sessions successfully held in 2020, has further optimized its digital platform to facilitate accessible and convenient business communication between suppliers and buyers.

“The Canton Fair has been promoting trade exchanges and stabilizing the global industrial supply chain over the years, and we hope the 129th session can contribute to China’s new development pattern where domestic and foreign markets can boost each other,” Xu said.

Canton, now known as Guangzhou, is the capital and most populous city in the province of Guangdong, which popularly called “the factory of the world.”

Located on the Pearl River about 120 km north-northwest of Hong Kong, Canton (Guangzhou) has a trade history of over 2,200 years and was historically the major trading terminus for the ancient, globalized Silk Road which traveled from China to the Mediterranean and southern Europe.

The metropolis continues in the modern era as a major port and transportation hub and is one of China’s three largest cities. 

This year’s Canton Fair brings functional improvements to enable efficient business matching, including leveraging resources in livestreams, allowing easy access to the Help Center, offering an upgraded Exhibitor Centre management tool, and providing an intelligent customer service system with multiple language support.

Aiming to provide buyers with an optimal experience throughout the grand online international trade event, the Fair is also embracing an inclusive participation with targeted market segment incentives and activities.

Focusing on China’s global “Belt and Road Initiative” and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) countries, the Canton Fair has been working closely with international business associations.

Forty-four exhibition virtual events hosted in 32 countries with topics covering promotion, matchmaking, and cooperation agreement signing, along with over 300 trainings for overseas buyers, email direct marketing and global partnership programs, will help global buyers understand their targeted industries and the product categories of interest which are showcased at the Canton Fair.

To allow buyers to do barrier-free business across borders, the Canton Fair is introducing a wide range of supporting services, such as professional settlements, financing to insurance, logistic support for transportation, inspection to quality certification, as well as online customs support and policy interpretation.

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Google Earth adds time lapse video to depict climate change

Associated Press

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Google Earth adds time lapse video to depict climate change

The Google Earth app is adding a new video feature that draws upon nearly four decades of satellite imagery to vividly illustrate how climate change has affected glaciers, beaches, forests and other places around the world.

The tool unveiled Thursday is rolling out in what is being billed as the biggest update to Google Earth in five years. Google says it undertook the complex project in partnership with several government agencies, including NASA in the U.S. and its European counterpart, in hopes that it will help a mass audience grasp the sometimes abstract concept of climate change in more tangible terms through its free Earth app.

Cornell University climate scientist Natalie Mahowald believes that mission may be accomplished.

“This is amazing,” she told The Associated Press after watching a preview of the new feature. “Trying to get people to understand the scope of the climate change and the land use problem is so difficult because of the long time and spatial scales. I would not be surprised if this one bit of software changes many people’s minds about the scale of the impact of humans on the environment.”

This isn’t the first time time-lapse satellite imagery has been used to demonstrate show how parts of the world are changing before our eyes due to a changing climate. Most scientists agree that climate change is being driven by pollution primarily produced by humans.

But earlier images have mostly focused on melting glaciers and haven’t been widely available on an already popular app like Google Earth, which can be downloaded on most of the more than 3 billion smartphones now in use around the world

Google is promising that people will be able to see a time lapse presentation of just about anywhere they want to search. The feature also includes a storytelling mode highlighting 800 different places on the planet in both 2D and 3D formats. Those videos also will be available on Google’s YouTube video site, a service more widely used than the Earth app.

The feature was created from 24 million satellite images taken every year from 1984 to 2020 and provided by NASA, the U.S. Geological Survey and the European Union, according to Google. The time lapse technology was created with the help of Carnegie Mellon University.

Google plans to update the time lapse imagery at least once a year.


SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — By MICHAEL LIEDTKE AP Technology Writer

AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein contributed to this story from Washington.

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