Access Control, Human Resources, Safety

Implementing a Vaccine Passport Reader Application to Help Businesses Enforce Health Security Protocols

Recent tracking finds around seven out of 10 Americans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Furthermore, Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that around six out of 10 remote workers support vaccine requirements to gain entry into places like high-rise workplaces or other such business centers. So, how can businesses best look to support these new security requirements for work access?

With many businesses already mandating vaccine proof or COVID-19 testing to go back to work, implementing passport readers at an organization may be an upcoming necessity. But what requirements should be considered when creating a passport reader application?

International governments might consider turning to passports used for travel to double as vaccination proof documents. Using them makes business sense. They are already a secure international document standard. They can be universally read and updated. Most people also already have one, and almost anyone can get one for a nominal fee. Thus, a passport might be ideal to use in the case of COVID-19 vaccination proof, too.

With data integrated into a passport about vaccination status, governments can quickly learn the vaccination status of an individual. So, now businesses, government agencies, and others can use a universal method to validate vaccine status more easily. This can also help enforce security protocols for back-to-work policies. However, a proper hardware and application setup is necessary.

So, to implement a passport reader, businesses will likely rely on their information technology or developer team. They will need to investigate acquiring technology to seamlessly verify the health status of an individual. With a specialized device, and nowadays even a smartphone, a user can scan the machine-readable zone (MRZ) area of a passport to quickly validate the status of a person.

What Is MRZ and How Will It Help?

A passport has an MRZ area on it. It is typically a set of characters and symbols at the bottom of a passport. The top area is considered for visual inspection by a security person. The bottom area is essentially what can be machine-read by a scanning device.

If you’ve ever had your passport scanned, you saw this in action. After the scan, a security worker then gets your basic information on his or her computer screen. This includes a person’s name, nationality, passport number, date of birth, gender, and expiration date of that passport. In this way, the security worker can match what the passport physically says against what is in the database. So, physically altered passports are easy to spot and less of a security threat.

Considerations to Implement Your MRZ Application

Business teams looking to leverage the convenience of MRZ to validate vaccine status will need to find an MRZ solution. At the heart of an MRZ solution is its optical character recognition (OCR) technology. How good the OCR is will determine accuracy, reliability, and speed of scanning passports. Here, near 100% accuracy will be important.

For this level of accuracy, the use of regular expression capabilities will also be important. This is where a sequence of characters can be more identified in advance by defining a pattern in software. This is often done with searching algorithms that find patterns or strings. In addition, cross-checking algorithms can add another level of accuracy.

Having to scan a passport multiple times because the application is not working can lead to long lines and frustrated users. So, near 100% accuracy in scan rates is essential. Most MRZ solution vendors will provide guidance on the levels of performance they can achieve with their solution.

MRZ Solution Types

There are a variety of ways to acquire a necessary MRZ reader solution. They include commercial off-the-shelf (COTS), open source, and software development kits (SDK). Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

COTS solutions will be ready to go upon purchasing, but they will usually be more costly and less customizable. If you opt for open source, it may be the cheapest but the most limited in capability and performance quality. An SDK is a bit more middle-ground, in that it may be less costly than COTS and higher-performing than open source, but will require some time to implement compared with COTS but faster at implementing than open source.

A Mobile MRZ Application

Finally, in the most ideal deployment scenario for this application, you would look for a solution that can be implemented on a smartphone or tablet. In this way you might be able to remove the requirement for acquiring new hardware. As touched on earlier, MRZ is possible to implement via a smartphone or iOS and Android tablet.

The way this would work is by having the user start a video stream, which means turning on the device’s camera. It is then pointed at the passport. With a well-developed MRZ application, this can be done without requiring app installs. Instead, the developer can create the application to run via common mobile browsers, making the application user reach more seamless.

Then, the MRZ reader software can parse characters in the MRZ area. This will auto-populate information results to the user’s web page or application on the browser. Like the security person at a security checkpoint using your passport information to verify your identity, the user here could also verify vaccination results.

A possible approach in creating a mobile application might involve using a phone camera’s application programming interface (API). This would require some coding. So, working with a developer team is ideal. If passports are not an option, even employee ID cards could be updated with a barcode for current status of employees via a mobile browser application.

Health experts continue to warn that COVID-19 variants are here for the foreseeable future. So, a passport doubling as proof of vaccination might become a prevalent solution. Businesses that can implement affordable and efficient methods to use passports to validate vaccinations for their business purposes might find it ideal. As such, it might be time for governments to turn to the passport as one universal option to enforce back-to-work security protocols.

Donna Wang is the technical marketing manager at Dynamsoft, a software company focusing on image capture and barcode scanning solutions. She leads content strategies, email marketing campaigns, PR initiatives, and more.

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