The week-old NZ Covid Tracer app has been a popular download.
The Ministry of Health says as of 12pm today, the official Government tracing app had clocked 405,000 registrations, while 15,500 QR codes had been generated for check-in posters (one business can create multiple check-in codes).
But I've had a lot of emails from people who have downloaded the app - only to get an error message when they try to use it to scan a QR code outside a business.
The reason is almost always that they're trying to scan a QR code created for a different app.
NZ Covid Tracer was late to the party, and many business owners went with alternatives in the meantime - or have gone with another option for QR Code posters because Business Connection, the MBIE service set up to print QR posters for NZ Covid Tracer (stay with me), requires an NZBN (NZ Business Number), among other hurdles.
There are around 800,000 businesses in New Zealand, but a spokesman told the Herald, "MBIE is initially targeting the approximately 62,000 New Zealand businesses where there is high traffic of customers and staff, as the majority of NZ businesses are sole traders, operate remotely or outdoors, work from home or in a low-people-traffic office environment.
With multiple check-in apps, and some businesses displaying multiple posters - sometimes none of them compatible with the Government's official app, confusion has reigned.
But now, the Ministry of Health says it's working with Wellington's PaperKite - creator of the popular Rippl check-in app - and others on integration, and it's making some progress.
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The check-in Nirvana would be if you could use NZ Covid Tracer to scan a poster created for any of the popular check-in apps, or to use an app like Rippl to scan a QR code on a poster created for NZ Covid Tracer. You could open your tracing app of choice, and scan any poster. That is, the sort of no-brainer scenario you need for mass-adoption.
Halfway, and that's as far as we'll go
We've got halfway there, following an update released overnight, Rippl's app can now be used to scan posters created for the NZ Covid Tracer app.
And that's as far as we'll go, on the scanning front. A spokesman for the Ministry of Health says there are no plans for its NZ Covid Tracer app to get the ability to scan posters created for other apps. There will be no two-way street.
Rippl's Antony Dixon says he can appreciate where the ministry is coming from. It wants one set of posters, verified by NZBN numbers. There is the issue that there are lots of sports clubs and churches and other organisations without an NZ Business Number, which means they can't print a poster for NZ Covid Tracer. For Rippl, which has had more than 50,000 downloads so far (60 per cent iOS, 40 per cent Android), that's an opportunity.
Dixon says his company, and other developers, are now working on integrating their Covid-19 infection alert systems with the NZ Covid Tracer app.
'Soft and slow'
Tech commentator Paul Spain has noted that while our Government has taken a "hard and fast" approach to the pandemic overall, its approach to technology could be better described as "soft and slow".
I'm not hugely concerned by the slow progress, given poor decisions made in haste now could potentially damage our privacy for years to come - and the fact that more advanced government tracking apps, like Singapore's TraceTogether have been ineffectual because of usability problems, which in turn contributed to low uptake. It also seems the technical ability of Bluetooth tracking was way oversold.
Our lack of community transmission gives us some breathing space to get our own app right.
Regardless, some who downloaded NZ Covid Tracer must be wondering why they bothered. As yet, no feature for automatically sending your data to health authorities. And, although it's promised, maybe as soon as June (read: August, in Developer Time), there's no Bluetooth tracking to record who you've been in proximity with, as per Singapore and Australia's apps. No wonder two AUT academics scratched their heads, wondering what NZ Covid Tracer is good for. Right now, it can only be used for keeping a personal diary of your movements - if you can find a compatible poster.
Another complication - and another reason to take things slowly - is that Apple and Google have only just wrapped up their joint effort to create what they call the Exposure Notification API - those initials stand for application programming interface, or the ability to talk to other apps - such as those created by the NZ Ministry of Health, or Rippl.
Apple and Google's effort is similar to the Bluetooth tracking technology used by government tracing apps in Singapore and Australia - but it's always on, all the time. A key drawback with the Singapore and Aussie efforts is that iPhone users have to remember to start the app, and leave it in the foreground.
So will the Apple-Google tracing technology be added to the NZ Covid Tracer app?
The Ministry of Health spokesman said, "the Ministry has noted the release of the new Apple/Google Exposure Notifications System API. We are considering how this might contribute to effective contact tracing in New Zealand and will be monitoring how the API supports contact tracing apps in other jurisdictions, and how privacy and security is protected."
The soft and slow approach continues. And when it comes to letting Big Tech companies like Apple and Google into your bed, it has some merit.