One app to find them all: Victoria set to roll out ‘safe, secure’ QR code check-in system

A new state government-funded contact-tracing app should be available to Victorians as soon as next week, providing a universal check-in method for venues via QR codes.

The app is being launched by Service Victoria and was custom built by Melbourne startup Two Bulls.

Evan Davey and James Kane from Two Bulls.
Evan Davey and James Kane from Two Bulls.Credit:Simon Schluter

A variety of businesses will be targeted to use the app, including cafes, restaurants, bars, shops, cinemas, gyms, sporting venues and theatres, but it is not expected to be mandatory.

Instead, the government will encourage voluntary take-up from small stores all the way through to large venues, including the Princess Theatre and the Melbourne Cricket Ground.


“There’s a huge advantage for the government because it means that the data is fed directly to the DHHS [Department of Health and Human Services],” said a source familiar with the project who asked to remain anonymous as they were not permitted to speak to the media.

“There’s also an advantage for consumers because it means that the government is not going to share your data.”

Users downloading the Victorian government’s app for the first time will have to fill in their contact details, but after that they can simply scan a venue’s QR code using their phone and it will automatically check them in.

A Victorian government spokesperson said the app was likely to launch soon after trials were completed at the end of this week.

“We are working on a QR Code solution that will be free for use, allowing businesses to keep a register of who has visited them,” the spokesperson said. “This technology will upload this vital data directly to the DHHS Salesforce contact tracing systems. It will be safe, secure and best in class.”

The Victorian app will operate separately to those in other states, such as the NSW government’s Service NSW app that works with its own QR code system and is being used by more than half a million people.

The Service Victoria app now displays QR code functionality.
The Service Victoria app now displays QR code functionality.

Following the easing of the state’s hard lockdown measures, the Victorian government is requiring venues to keep a record of who has visited and when so contact tracers can track down people if a coronavirus case is later detected.

In order to meet these requirements, businesses have been using several different check-in methods, from pen and paper to QR codes, but concerns have been raised about data harvesting.

Privacy advocates have warned some private companies operating check-in systems might be vacuuming up huge numbers of names, emails and phone numbers.

Justin Warren, from privacy and digital rights group Electronic Frontier Australia, said the proliferation of different QR code systems was “messier than it needs to be” and a universal system made sense.

“I am not super keen on the government surveilling exactly where you have been, but in the context of public health it’s probably worth it,” he said.

“We would like to see legal protection around how the data is used … trust is very important with contact tracing.”

Take-up is expected to be more successful than the federal government’s COVIDSafe contact tracing app because the venue check-in method is viewed as less invasive than constant bluetooth tracking.

The COVIDSafe app has been downloaded by 7 million people, but has only uncovered 17 contacts not found by contact tracing teams around the country.

The Victorian government’s app has been trialled successfully by 100 venues, including Officeworks, which has been using the app to check in customers at five of its stores.

“While we’re in very early days of the trial, the majority of our customers visiting the participating stores have been happy to check-in using the tool, and have done so quickly and easily,” an Officeworks spokesperson said.

Service Victoria’s app is already displaying the QR code check in functionality and its website states: “This is just the start. Lots more coming soon.”

The app could in the future be used beyond QR code check-ins to include other services, such as replacing the need to carry a driver’s licence.

Two Bulls, which developed the app, is based in Collingwood and has previously built products including The Wiggles app, Qantas’ loyalty app and LIFX, which enables remote control lighting from phones.

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