Friday Fry Up: Digital heath wallets en route; Videoconferencing blip; Network spikes of no concern; Hackathon at (data) scale

Friday Fry Up is Computerworld New Zealand’s weekly look at the world of IT.

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Digital health wallet coming to an airline near you

Our national airline noted in its half-yearly result ($72 million net loss for the six months ending 31 December 2020) this week that cargo now equates to about 35% of its previous long-haul business. But when passengers do come return en masse and packages are once again consigned to the belly of the plane, a digital health wallet will be de rigeur.

In April, Air New Zealand will trial the digital Travel Pass app developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for three weeks on its Auckland-to-Sydney route. The app will enable passengers to create a digital health wallet that is linked to their e-passport. According to the IATA site, the app uses blockchain technology so there is no central database that could be hacked.

“The IATA Travel Pass does not store any data centrally. It simply links entities that need verification (airlines and governments) with the test or vaccination data when travellers permit. This last point is key. No verification will go to an airline or a government without the authorisation of the traveller,” the IATA site says.

The app consists of four open source and interoperable modules. These include enabling passengers to find information about testing and vaccine requirements, as well as sharing vaccination and testing certificates with the airlines that can then ensure the passengers are ready to travel. IATA stresses it doesn’t see its role as mandating whether passengers to travel if, for example, they have received a COVID-19 vaccination—that is the role of individual governments.

Singapore Airlines will be the first to trial the Travel Pass app (which will be available in both the iOS and Android app stores) with at least 15 airlines, including Air New Zealand, following suit.

Air New Zealand chief digital officer Jennifer Sepull says Travel Pass is one of many digital health wallets being developed, and it was picked because IATA already has a lot of the mechanisms and systems in place. “They’ve been managing visas for the last decade for the airlines, so they can use a lot of their current systems to safely transfer some of this information,” she says.

“There are different solutions out there, so our strategy is to stay as open as we can in our architecture and make sure that whatever solution we use has interoperability so we can use it in different ways,” Sepull notes.

Videoconferencing blip

The ‘Valentine’s Day lockdown’ that plunged Auckland back to Level 3 is another reminder of the importance of good broadband. And this week telcos were keen to push their favourite flavour of broadband.

It may have been the lockdown, it could be the ongoing wrangling as a new regulatory regime is established, or perhaps it was the thought of 381,000 copper lines coming up for grabs as that network is decommissioned. Whatever the cause, the effect has been New Zealand’s three largest telcos stating their broadband strategy.

Spark, which has about 40% of the fixed broadband market, told investors at its half-year results that its goal is to have 30% to 40% of its base on wireless broadband by FY23. Quite an ambitious goal considering wireless is 23% of its base today.

It’s late to the wireless broadband party, but nonetheless Vodafone NZ is investing $100 million in mobile network upgrades that will extend this capability, as well as its 5G rollout.

Vodafone NZ also announced a restructure that will see 200 roles removed, and 150 roles created. The majority of the new roles will be for in-country customer-facing roles, part of a $110 million investment in this area. The telco has recently on-shored its business call centre, although most of its consumer call centre is likely to remain in India.

Vodafone NZ is also investing $115 million in developing digital products and services, including the implementation of Amazon Connect for its contact centre operation, which it expects to complete by September 2021.

Meanwhile Chorus—which can’t sell directly to consumers—is offering retail service providers up to $800 if they demonstrate they are promoting fibre services and bring a customer back on to Chorus’s fibre network.

Network spikes of passing, not profound, interest

Mention of fibre, you may have wondered if those spikes in upload traffic in the graphs that Chorus sends out every lockdown had any effect on the network. They are caused by people starting virtual meetings on the hour, as the graph below shows.

chorus broadband feb 2021 lockdown Chorus

The February 2021 lockdown produced a blip in usage due to videoconferences, but not enough to affect network performance.

According to Chorus CTO Ewen Powell, the “bursting nature of the overhead”, while interesting to observe, doesn’t have any effect on network coverage. “It doesn’t actually show up in terms of degraded performance or anything.”

You can find out more about how Powell’s team manage the Chorus network in CIO New Zealand’s story.

A hackathon, but not as we know it

While your organisation collects a lot of data, it probably isn’t on the scale of Maxar, which own four active satellites in orbit that collect 3 million square kilometres of imagery a day. Yes, a day.

What can you do with all that data? In an attempt to find out, Maxar and the Ministry of Business and Innovation are holding a 24-hour hackathon in April, which will be open to students at six universities. Teams will be tasked with using the data to solve New Zealand problems such addressing COVID-19 and the future, maintaining healthy local waterways, and managing emergencies.

In return for tackling the big issues, students will get to work with Maxar technology and be mentored by expert coaches. And if that doesn’t sound motivating, organisers are also tempting people with free food and coffee—and $5,000 cash prices.

There will be up to six people in each team, so organisers suggest that a broad range of skill sets encompassing the following personas should be considered: visionary, hustler, hacker, and designer.

In other words, half to do the work and half to yabber about it.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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