Popl is a four-month-old startup that's trailblazing a new market that we call Instant Contact Sharing (ICS). Reading about COVID-19 exposure notification and entry screening led us to an epiphany. We could leverage our ICS app and cloud infrastructure to provide a robust tool for COVID-19 entry screening and event/location-based exposure notification - thereby helping to get R0 below 1 while facilitating the opening-up of society.
What it does
Covid Pass is an app and cloud software that enable users to create an online profile that includes their recent favorable COVID-19 test result and questionnaire, then wirelessly present their test result and questionnaire to gain entry into events, venues and facilities that are implementing robust entry screening for COVID-19.
To assess the credibility of COVID-19 test results that users upload, Covid Pass scans those documents and performs a keyword analysis using machine learning tools such as Tesseract OCR.
Using their phones, users can wirelessly present their favorable COVID-19 test result via a QR code, or they can use near field communication (NFC) transmission - if they want to present the test result instantly (no camera required). Both approaches work across plexiglass shields and glass barriers (and the average length of two outstretched arms is a socially-distanced 6 feet).
Additionally, Covid Pass enables events, venues and facilities to send exposure notifications to selected users if it’s subsequently determined that those users were exposed to the novel coronavirus.
How we built it
We built the app using pure React Native. The machine learning functionality that assesses the credibility of the test documents uses Tesseract and eng.traineddata from Google.
Challenges we ran into
The biggest challenge that we encountered was how to assess the credibility of COVID-19 test result documents so that the documents can’t be easily falsified by rogue users.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We are most proud of improving tools to get the pandemic R0 below 1, and at the same time, facilitating the opening-up of society.
What we learned
We learned about HIPAA compliance, and how to use machine learning to assess the integrity of COVID-19 test result documents.
What's next for Covid Pass
We plan to leverage Popl’s expanding Instant Contact Sharing business to launch Covid Pass and grow its adoption.
Our current 40,000+ popl users will automatically get a free update to their app that has the Covid Pass functionality.
We plan to promote Covid Pass through Popl’s social media channels that have over 1.6 million followers.
We would also like to leverage our connections to UC, to get warm introductions to UC people who are responsible for: (1) COVID-19 test centers (e.g. Ashe Center at UCLA and Tang Center at UCB), and (2) covid-related management of UC events, programs and facilities. Those people could help us pilot and expand the use of Covid Pass for robust entry screening and event/location-based exposure notification.
Currently, Covid Pass is optimized for COVID-19 virus testing. However, we plan to expand its functionality to cover COVID-19 antibody testing and eventually, vaccination verification.
Presuming Covid Pass gains traction, we might spin-out a non-profit company to run the operation separately from Popl.
Covid Pass FAQ
Q: Could people who use Covid Pass falsify a negative COVID-19 virus test to gain entry into a facility or event?
A: Yes. As with questionnaire screening and temperature screening, Covid Pass is not a fool-proof guarantee that a person won't spread the coronavirus. That's why we recommend using Covid Pass in conjunction with temperature screening, mask wearing, and social distancing. Furthermore, Covid Pass uses machine learning tools to perform a keyword analysis on test result documents to make it harder to falsify test docs. Finally, Covid Pass requires users to check a terms of service checkbox that warns of legal consequences if a user knowingly falsifies their Covid Pass.
Q: It’s easy to see how Covid Pass is used for entry screening, but how can Covid Pass be used for event/location-based exposure notification?
A: When Covid Pass users pop an entrance guard who also has the Covid Pass app, the guard's app maintains a record of each Covid Pass profile. In addition to the profile, the searchable records include timestamp of entry, and GPS location of facility / event. If it's subsequently determined that an event or facility was contaminated with the novel coronavirus when Covid Pass users were there, then the guard's Covid Pass app can send push notifications to (only) those Covid Pass users notifying them that they were potentially exposed to the novel coronavirus, and linking to CDC instructions on what to do.
Q: How does Covid Pass handle HIPAA compliance and privacy? Also, is Popl tracking where and when I pop my Covid Pass?
A: We presume that users will only upload and pop their favorable COVID-19 test results, and therefore users might be only nominally concerned about test document privacy. Nonetheless, Popl will upgrade its cloud server storage from PCI to HIPAA standards. Also, we won't share Covid Pass information with any third parties on our own, and we only track Covid Pass usage for anonymized, aggregated data analysis. Finally, if Covid Pass gains traction, then it might make sense to spin-out a non-profit that is separate from Popl, so that Covid Pass has no commercial, for-profit incentives.
Q: Covid Pass seems to be optimized for virus testing. Can it also be used for antibody testing and eventually vaccination verification?
A: Yes, we plan to expand Covid Pass functionality beyond virus testing to antibody testing and vaccination verification. In anticipation of this expansion, we use the generic phrase "favorable test result" instead of "negative virus test result" (because for the antibody test, you want a positive test result).
Q: Does Covid Pass include a standard COVID-19 questionnaire in addition to the test result document?
A: Yes, users' Covid Pass profiles include a standard COVID-19 questionnaire.
Q: Can Covid Pass work through a plexiglass shield or glass barrier?
A: Yes, QR codes and NFC (near field communications) work through plexiglass and glass (but maybe not super thick, bullet-proof clear barriers).
Q: How do I learn more about the emerging Instant Contact Sharing market?
A: Go to popl .