"Ultimately we will both want to and need to relax the border in both directions," Navman founder Sir Peter Maire says.
"The CovidCard was our best shot at achieving that goal.
"I'm very disappointed that we had to admit defeat on bringing to 'Team Kiwi' the ultimate Covid tracking solution.
"I wish I could say how ****** off I really am about this.
"But, more importantly, it's the huge effort that a bunch of Kiwis put in at their own cost to try and save the country from what will be a lot of misery going forward.
"Maybe the only positive the team will get for this effort is that our Kiwi CovidCard will likely pop up elsewhere in the world - yet another Kiwi invention going offshore."
Earlier this week, Sam Morgan told the Herald he had stood down his high-powered CovidCard team, which had included Maire, former Air New Zealand and Xero CTO Alistair Grigg, and University of Otago epidemiologists Tim Chambers and Andy Anglemyer.
Their vision was a card, worn around the neck on a lanyard that would use Bluetooth wireless technology to record close contacts between people - without the problems of different standards, signal strength and users who forget to load an app that have bedevilled smartphone-based Bluetooth tracking solutions. They say it would speed tracing, and capture contacts forgotten by a Covid victim, or that they never realised they had.
(Read more on the pros and cons argument here).
The Trade Me founder said the Government was now only paying lip-service to the card with a planned Rotorua trial that he labelled a "political sop". He could no longer see a pathway to success.
Pining for the fjords
Communications Minister Kris Faafoi has brushed off Morgan's comments.
A planned CovidCard trial in Rotorua, involving about 300 people, would go ahead at the end of September. There would be a report to Cabinet by the end of October and a decision on deployment by the end of the year, Faafoi said.
He appreciated Morgan's desire to get the technology up and running as soon as possible.
"He's is very passionate about what he thinks needs to happen. I can't control Sam's feelings on a day-to-day basis," Faafoi said.
"But we need to put the card through its paces.
"I'm not going to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer money on something that isn't tested and we don't know how people will respond."
While Team Morgan had exited stage left, "a whole lot of other people that are part of the PPP have stuck around to be part of the trial," Faafoi said.
Sam strikes back
Morgan objected to Faafoi's repeated comments on Tuesday that the CovidCard would cost "hundreds of millions" to develop and deploy, rather than the Trade Me founder's headline figure of $100 million.
The entrepreneur did not want it reproduced in full, but showed the Herald a copy of the line-item budget he had shared with the Government, which totalled $98.5m.
It included $37m for the manufacture of the cards, $17m for distribution and a $4m contingency as part of $77m designated for design, build and rollout costs over an anticipated period of five months, plus another $21.5m for the CovidCard's first year of operation, including a helpdesk, and the anticipated cost of replacements for lost cards (if up to 30 per cent of us lose them) and other sundries.
One rule for the app, another for the card
Earlier, a Ministry of Health spokesman told the Herald the Rotorua CovidCard trial was in a design phase, which included "engaging with community leaders, iwi, public health units, the Department of Internal Affairs, MBIE, NZ Contact Tracing, as well as a wider team of people covering technology, policy, legal, data, market research and other key elements of the work".
All of that was going by the book for a large IT project.
But Morgan sees an element of hypocrisy on Faafooi and the Ministry of Health's part.
"They did no trials whatsoever on the NZ Covid Tracer app," he says.
"It was an entirely faith-based approach. And they're going to deploy Apple-Google Bluetooth proximity tracking with no trials at all."
Given the confusion during the early days of the NZ Covid Tracer app, and the creation of its associated QR code posters, some would say it could have benefited from more user testing.
And Privacy Edwards John Edwards has pointed out that unlike an upgradeable app, the design of a CovidCard will be "baked in" for 12 months (roughly the life the card, constrained by the battery powering its bluetooth transmitter).
Morgan says there would be scope for tweaking the Covid Card setup on that the algorithms used by software to analyse data downloaded from a card could be continuously updated.
But, more broadly, he says the sequential workflow process being followed by the ministry is not appropriate for our public health emergency situation.
"I agree completely that you need complete confidence that cards work before rollout.
"The issue is that if you don't start doing other streams in parallel - like standing up a team - then delivery is perpetually six months away.
"I don't see any prospect of delivery in next 12 months at current pace and course."
Already been a trial
"This isn't just a press release. Hundreds of pages of technical documentation have been shared with the Government. The solution works, Morgan says.
There was also a 50-person proof-of-concept trial at Nelson Hospital during May, with the co-operation of the Nelson Marlborough DHB, that saw Bluetooth Covid Cards compared to the performance of cards using ultra-wideband wireless (which is pinpoint accurate, if too expensive and mean on battery life for mass rollout).
"The purpose of the device is to capture clinically defined close contacts - 15 minutes of contact within a couple of metres. Achieving that is exactly what the purpose of our trials was seeking to test and we got very high confidence that in normal social settings with people moving around, etc, that it can do that to 90 per cent-plus confidence with around 10 per cent false positives. The received signal strength RSSI varies hugely but the card algorithms are designed for exactly that," Morgan says.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Health said there had been a number of incremental upgrades to the CovidCard since the Nelson trial, which meant another test was warranted.
"The Rotorua trial will help us determine whether the CovidCard works in a real-world scenario and will also allow us to test public sentiment."
For Morgan, the public sentiment element is just another time-wasting element.
"Gauging social acceptance is just silly," he says.
"It depends on how much fear there is of infection as to how much people like lanyards. They might need to simulate a raging outbreak in Rotorua to get accurate results."