A new tap and go function on the NZ Covid tracer app will be trialled at Victoria University of Wellington and a number of small businesses from Monday. .
Run by the Ministry of Health, the trial will see the app make use of Near Field Communications (NFC) tags, in addition to QR codes.
People with a compatible phone and the latest version of the NZ Covid Tracer app will be able to hold their phone against a small NFC tag to record a diary entry.
They will just need to unlock their phone and hold it near the tag, placed near existing QR code posters, which will automatically open the app and add the diary entry. The app displays the green success screen to confirm a successful entry.
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The tap-and-go tags will be placed in public spaces around the university’s Kelburn, Pipitea and Te Aro campuses, along with two cafes in Molesworth Street – Mojo Summit and Hauora – and a Wellington Fitness Centre, HealthFit Collective.
Auckland University’s Dr Andrew Chen, a researcher at Koi Tū, Centre for Informed Futures, said the addition of NFC technology would not make using the app significantly different.
It will improve accessibility for some people, but some phones would not have NFC capabilities, and for those with smartphones older than 4 years old, scanning the QR code might still be faster.
NFC is the same technology used for Apple and Google Pay, so users of those functions will be able to use the tracer app in the same way.
Accessibility depended on placement. “To make sure they are accessible to wheelchair users is not something inherent to the technology, it comes down to where they’re placed.”
“Overall this is a relatively minor change that might help some people log their entries more easily,” Chen said. “Anything that helps uptake is a good thing.”
He said there would need to be an infrastructure roll out if the trial was a success – probably one tag per business, more than one for larger stores like supermarkets.
Deputy Director-General of digital data Shayne Hunter said the trial would run for up to four weeks and inform decisions about a potential wider roll-out.
Adding a diary entry via NFC tag would have the same privacy protections as scanning and using Bluetooth, with all data stored on the user’s phone until they choose to share it. People were asked to share their digital diary only if they tested positive for Covid-19.
There are now more than 3 million app users, and more than 2 million users had enabled Bluetooth tracing. 
Victoria University’s director of safety, risk and assurance Phil O’Connell said staff and students were good adopters of new technologies.
“This trial, aimed at making it easy for New Zealanders to keep track of where they’ve been, fits with our university’s commitment to innovation and new knowledge that can help solve key issues that face us.” 
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