The Japanese Government Digital Agency released a QR Code COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate app for iOS and Android today, 2021-12-21. The iOS app has support for SMART Health QR Code certificates that can be added to iOS 15.1 Wallet iPhone and later.
The app requires a Japanese Individual Number Card (My Number Card) to issue a vaccination certificate which is linked to individual vaccination information. The process offers 2 options, domestic use and international use. Issuing a certificate is simple: select options, enter the user set My Number PIN and read the physical My Number Card. The International option requires a reading a passport number.
Users report success getting an issued certificate into Wallet but the process is somewhat manual. If you don’t get a Wallet prompt, do an in-app scan of the Smart Health QR Code to load it into Health and Wallet apps.
My own experience with the app was not good. I have vaccinations and a My Number Card, but get a 60910 error when I enter my PIN and read the card. Some My Number Card naming conventions, such as such as maiden + married names, or mixed English and Japanese are not accepted by the app for certificate issue.
The app support details explain this kind of issue can only be fixed with a visit to the city hall office where city officials update the registered My Number Card name information. The issue appears to affect more than a few people. The Digital Agency updated their website later in the day and told IT reporter Junya Suzuki that an app update is coming soon to address some unspecified naming issues, however the basic name limitations remain listed on the website and app.
We shall see…knowing my luck I’ll probably have go to to the local ward office records section anyway to get a real fix. I’ll report gory details later if I do.
A number of issues have cropped up since the apps release. It seems that the Digital Agency subcontractor made mistakes, or failed to find them in their rush to get the Vaccination Certificate App out. Most likely there wasn’t proper subcontractor oversight or review, and iOS development appears to have taken a backseat to Android. The name issue is related to limitations in the current JP ePassport format. The timing is questionable as Japan is entering a gray zone regarding who should get booster vaccinations and when. Until that’s settled vaccination certificates are pretty useless for domestic use.
The list of issues so far:
- The supported formats are ICAO VDS-NC and SMART Health Cards (SHC). Currently there is no support for EU DCC format which is widely used internationally (iOS 15.4 Wallet will support EU DCC, expect app support to follow).
- Certificates are not added to Wallet automatically, it is done via an in-app scan of the SHC QR Code, not the VDS-NC one.
- The app handles SHC code incorrectly and produces a SHC record that wrongly juxtaposes ‘family’ and ‘given’ names in Roman letters (fixed in v1.04 update).
- Instead of reading ePassport data via NFC, the app uses OCR. Verification could be done with a NFC read of all ICAO MRTD (ePassport) information but the app does not do this. Instead the only requirement to get a passport read is a valid MRZ (machine readable zone) read of the birthdate that matches the birthday what gets read from the My Number Card.
- JP ePassport format does not support maiden + married names (by design) and this is the given reason why OCR is used instead of NFC. The JP ePassport name limitation also the reason why the current version of the app refuses to issue vaccination certificates when the My Number Card contains such name combinations. (fixed in v1.08 update)
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