Tim Bos discusses tourism in times of COVID-19, and how ShareRing technology can contribute to the opening of the borders.
I’d like to introduce you to our next speaker, who is Mr. Tim Bos, co-founder and chairman of ShareRing, joining us through Zoom. Good afternoon Mr. Bos, how are you?
Hi. Great, thanks. Great to virtually be here.
Thank you for joining us and now the screen time is yours, take it away.
Thanks very much. Hi everyone, my name’s Tim Bos and I’m the CEO of ShareRing.
Tourism Must be Reimagined
Today what I’m gonna be talking about is how we can potentially look at opening the borders again post COVID 19 or even as we start to find our way out of COVID 19.
First of all, since the borders shut down in March, with COVID 19. We need to start rethinking how we approach tourism. I don’t think that we’re just going to suddenly open the borders again and flights are going to start arriving. It needs to be a gradual thing. We need to be able to society’s trust with travelers and trust with the tourism providers.
There have been almost daily articles about when are we going to open the borders? How can we open the borders? Are we going to create travel bubbles? and so on.
Challenges During COVID-19
One of the challenges during COVID 19 is how do we help tourism operators stay in business? How do we help them open up again?
How do we give them the safety and protection that they need to make sure that they’re not exposed to COVID 19, but also things like travelers that are traveling into countries and being asked to install COVID tracking apps?
How do we provide security and safety for them, but also make sure that their data isn’t used in ways that we don’t want them to, like leaking of email addresses, identity and things like that.
Then also, how do we make sure that we increase the adoption of not just COVID tracking apps, but apps or technology that will help us open those borders again.
What are they Doing in Other Parts of the World?
First of all, let’s have a look at what they’re doing in other parts of the world to try to open the borders. I think we’ve seen a lot of progress in Europe, for example, and the creation of travel bubbles.
Some travel bubbles that exist between Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the way that they work is they have a lot of alignment between the governments and the approach to how they’re treating things like lockdowns and how they are treating things like COVID tracking.
So if you create a travel bubble, you need a few things. One is alignment between the governments and how they are going to suppress COVID 19. Then the governments need to trust each other and their process to make sure that the numbers of people with COVID are actually kept very low, and so on.
It’s a difficult thing to do and it’s a very difficult thing to achieve and we’re seeing travel bubbles pop up and then disappear just as quickly every hour, every week. There’s a fear at the moment that a second wave of the virus is happening in Europe. So some of these travel bubbles are starting to disappear.
Other things that we see are extended quarantine, so this is particularly being used to look for either business travel as it must go to countries to conduct business or people that are being repatriated back to their home countries.
For example, where I am now in Australia, any people that have repatriated back into Australia need to stay in a hotel for two weeks for the quarantine period. Also for business travelers that are traveling overseas, say to Japan from Australia, if they get permission to leave the country.
Then they also need to stay for two weeks in quarantine. It doesn’t help travelers very much because often travel is and tourism is only for two weeks. So people aren’t going to travel and stay for two weeks in quarantine.
What is Thailand Doing?
So what’s Thailand doing? The latest thing that we’ve seen happening is the travel hub of Phuket, and it’s focused really on long-stay vacations. So making sure people put into quarantine a minimum two weeks, as like what a lot of other countries are doing.
Then after that, they can take their vacations, it’s very focused on people that are staying for one month or more for extended vacations in those countries.
There have also been discussions around creating travel bubbles with other countries, that was considered with a lot of options put out, but it seems at the moment, for all intent and purposes, that has been postponed and those discussions are postponed while countries try to get a hold of the situation.
The other area which is finding a small amount of success is really to focus more on domestic tourism and promote domestic tourism to Thai citizens. That requires the adjustment of things like the pricing model, that requires the adjustment of the target and the marketing for the tourism operators.
But I think it’s a great thing to sort of help kickstart the tourism industry a little bit to focus a lot more on domestic tourism. Then hand in hand with that is domestic contact tracing.
The app called Thai Chana is being used for people who are going into shopping centers, banks, and some other areas to scan the QR code into the details and submit those details so that there’s an element of contact tracing in the domestic environment.
What is ShareRing Doing?
Our view is tourism needs to be reimagined, and what I’ll do now is talk a little bit about what ShareRing is doing and then how we are addressing this with some of the technology that we’ve developed.
We started ShareRing in late 2017 and started developing a product in 2018.
Some of the technology that we’ve developed around ShareRing ID, which I’ll talk about in a little bit more detail shortly is ShareRing pay, which is a payment system that facilitates cross-border payments, instant payments to providers, merchants, hotels, people, and also zero or very, very low foreign exchange fees.
That means I can travel from, say, Australia, use my app to pay for things like my hotels, experiences, activities and more in Australian dollars, then the merchant to the hotel would receive Thai Baht, without a crazy large spread in the foreign exchange rate.
We have several bits of technology that allows us to do it with lower rates than anyone else in the industry. We develop a lot of our systems on top of blockchain technology for many reasons.
Then we’re also working on a reward system, part of our reward system is around getting people to use other parts of our ecosystem more, but also will allow things like converting reward points to other well-known hotel reward points or car and flight reward points, so that can be used across other systems.
In terms of the actual products, I mentioned ShareRing ID. We do support hotel bookings on our site and our Web app. One of the unique features by using ShareRing ID is to allow people to do express check into hotels.
So once you booked the hotel, you can turn up to the hotel, the hotel will already have your passport photo, they’ve got that registered and all you need to do is collect the card and go straight up to your room. Similar to flight bookings, we will allow for express check-in or pre-check-in and pre-checks on flights.
We offer experiences and tours through one of our partners, car sharing, the COVID 19 passport which I’ll discuss, other products like electronic visa on arrival technology as well as several other things.
We’re also launching in Bangkok very shortly a local business e-commerce site, which allows you to use our website or our apps to shop locally and have same-day delivery from any shops around you that are part of the plan. We’re launching that in the Asoke area with one of our partners very, very soon.
In terms of ShareRing ID, one of our main products that underpin all of our technology. One of the things about ShareRing ID is it’s what’s called a self-sovereign identity platform.
What that means is when you sign up for ShareRing ID, your identity, your passport information, driver’s license, and other information that’s stored in the ID is not stored on a central server or a cloud server, it stays on your phone.
You register for ShareRing ID and you completely control your ID and you control who has access to it. As a company ShareRing, we don’t have a photo of your passport, we don’t have your address or anything like that and the process to sign up for it is quite simple.
You open the app, you take a photo of your passport, we have AI that does checks to make sure that it’s valid and does optical character recognition to get the data off the passport.
You’ll also do what’s called a liveness detection, so you hold the phone to your face and you move. So we say nod and shake your head or say something and that confirms that you’re a real person.
We also match the photo of what you’ve just done then to the passport, and we encrypt that information and we take a digital fingerprint of that information and we store the digital fingerprint on the blockchain.
What that means is you still control all of the information, but you can’t change it. So we’ve verified that passport, we’ve verified that it’s you so that if you try to change any of that information, then it’s not valid anymore.
ShareRing ID Benefits
It makes for a super simple solution for travelers, so you can then use that ID to very quickly book hotels, book experiences, book flights. We’re also talking to banks so you can use it to quickly sign up for banking and many other solutions that make it easy to sign up for things that require ID.
For example, if you go to a car rental place, instead of waiting in a queue and showing your ID and having it scanned, you could simply sign up, scan a QR code, your identity will go straight to the car rental place and then you’ll be able to take the car away from you. So it’s turning something that’s normally a 10-minute experience into something that’s maybe two or three minutes maximum.
There’s a lot of different uses across it, the process takes only two minutes. The security around liveness detection, it’s fraud-proof. In places like Europe, where they have something called GDPR, which is about the protection of data and Thailand has something similar. it helps protect that data as well.
It means that if we were hacked, for example, that nobody could go in and collect any of that information or any of that data, and we often see reports of company X, Y, Z being hacked and all of the people’s data being leaked, so one of the reasons behind this technology is to avoid that.
One of the examples of using ShareRing ID is for our visa on arrival products, so we’re talking to several countries in terms of adopting this.
The beauty of this is at the moment with electronic visas, the process is you apply through a website, or through the airline that you’re going through, you send all of your details, and then you’ve got people in the back office that actually go through and manually check it.
They check the passport to make sure it’s valid, they look at hotel bookings and the flight bookings, make sure it’s all valid and then approve it. That takes time and costs a lot of money to do.
Our solution allows you to simply sign up for ShareRing ID, take a photo of your flight booking receipt, take a photo of your hotel booking receipt, we have a system that gathers all of that data and verifies that data, then it creates the visa on arrival application and sends it through securely.
Because it’s all been pre-checked the approval process is a lot faster, it’s authenticity is a lot more guaranteed, then also the approval process seems to be a lot faster, you could effectively get approval within hours instead of days on that whole process.
Open World Tourist Experience
I’d like to talk about one of the solutions that we’re looking at to bring a lot of the technology together, such as our identity and everything to create something that we’re calling the open-world tourist experience.
A lot of other people have been calling this a COVID 19 passport and the idea is that you would be able to allow people to travel by providing proof that they don’t have COVID 19 and then also providing them security in the countries that they enter.
The opportunity that we saw with this is by taking some of our existing assets and technology, which is our core product, the ShareRing ID, the electronic visa on arrival, hotel booking technology, a flight booking technology, liveness detection, travel insurance partnerships, our other tourism partnerships, and then adding a module to it, which is our COVID tracing system.
We use those to help travel businesses open up and help countries open their borders again.
Tourist Experience Workflow
The process is quite simple, this is a high-level workflow on how that might work. The idea behind it is before the tourist travels, what they would need to do is effectively go and get a test.
If this is before a vaccine is out, they would need to effectively do a test and the results of that test would be either scanned by the system or we would work with authorized testing centers to verify that and put it into the system that they’ve had a negative test.
That test would always need to be done maybe two or three days before you’re planning on traveling, because there’s no point getting the test two weeks before or three weeks before.
You would do that test two or three days before, you would get approval to say that test is clear, and then you would go through a similar process to what I mentioned before, which is the electronic visa on arrival process.
What you would effectively do is you would scan that negative test, you would scan your hotel bookings, you would scan your flight receipt, then our system would do the OCR optical character recognition on that information, it would process that information through and give you clearance to travel.
That clearance to travel would be shown to the airline when you go to the airport, it would be shown to customs when you enter into Thailand for example, through the borders there.
But I guess the experience doesn’t stop there, because one of the things is we also need to make sure that the travelers feel safe and also the people in the tourist destinations and things like that feel safe when the travelers are going around.
I remember there was an article in the paper a few weeks ago in Thailand, there was a bit of concern where there were some people that visited the country that it turned out that they had COVID 19 and the contact tracing for where they had been and the process was quite a headache to go through.
One of the things that we’re looking at is how do we approach that too when the people are on the ground and get some contract tracing in place. We looked at a sort of maybe Thai Chana type of experience, but something that follows the traveler from when they leave home to when they arrive in Thailand and then when they’re doing shopping and things like that.
The concept behind it is you would scan the QR code at an entrance to a shop or a shopping center, you don’t need to re-enter any information at all because you’ve got your ShareRing ID, so that would automatically send only the relevant information that’s required for contact tracing to a database and then your screen would show that amber, or it would show green or maybe in some cases red.
Green means everything is good, you can enter into that shop and go shopping. Amber means that our system has detected that you’ve previously been in a location where someone else who has COVID has been to. It would flash amber and say you can’t enter this location, we suggest that you isolate and if you have any symptoms, then go to your nearest test center and get tested.
It’s quite a simple and elegant process and very simple to roll out at a very low cost because there’s no requirement to put the infrastructure in any shops or any locations. As a follow on for this, we’ve been in discussions with some restaurants overseas and many other places where effectively we could offer additional services off the back of that.
For example, you go to a restaurant and you scan the QR code and I say green to go in. Instead of just going in and sitting down and the waiter coming and taking your order, perhaps within the app itself, we could allow the customer to order a meal through the app and then pay using our ShareRing payment system. What that does is it facilitates more of a contactless experience while they’re in the restaurant, which once again increases the safety even more.
There’s a lot of different opportunities about how we could address this and we are in discussions with many companies, shopping centers, different governments, organizations such as the World Economic Forum and other ones, to see how we can make sure that we have the adoption of not necessarily just this technology, but this framework that would help open the borders.
The other thing is we need to consider the fact that there’s a vaccine coming out soon. The approach to this would be, instead of at the start of the process to say, let’s have a test and see if your COVID negative, the process would be maybe some countries/airlines are saying you need to be vaccinated before you travel.
As controversial as that might be, for some people, that maybe some of the rules that go into place. I guess part of the sign-up process would say, have you had a vaccination? And if you have, here’s the evidence that it has and now you can travel.
We’ve been approached by a number of companies, one of them is a company that’s designed a watch that does temperature tracking, so they said, what about integrating this ongoing temperature tracking into the app to show if they’ve got an elevated temperature, then that could flash amber and they would need to get tested.
Why ShareRing? Why us? Why are we doing this? One of the obvious answers is in March this year, we were ready to launch our travel app with many partners that we had. I was actually in Thailand in February just coming back from organizing a lot of the partners and we had a launch organized and everything.
COVID 19 meant we had to shut everything down, so we delayed the launch of that app and we launched our e-commerce platform, shopping, and a number of other things since then.
But we’re part of the tourist tourism industry with that product, so it’s important for us to help open the tourism industry up again. Also because of our partnerships, we’ve got partnerships with everything from governments to NGOs to tourism operators to insurance companies.
We’re in a unique position to bring all of this together and then use the technology that we’ve developed to do it in a safe and secure way that also isn’t entirely disruptive.
We’ve seen other technologies that have been proposed that are very disruptive in terms of their approach, they take civil liberties and security away from people as well.
We’re looking forward to doing this, we expect that this will be an open platform that other people can integrate with, or we will integrate with other platforms as well to push this through, so certainly something that’s experienced for us.
Benefits for Various Stakeholders
In terms of the benefits of doing something like this, we’ve done a really strong market analysis and a view of the returns on this.
For retail, spending returns, greater safety, better interaction with customers, and for the government that’s quite obviously increased GDP, better brand building for the nation as well. Then also for the people is better civic safety and policy enforcement as well.
For airlines, trust in their brand, they can commercialize in the hotels and transport, keep travelers and employees safe, insurers obviously and then obviously tourism gives them freedom of movement and happy memories.
We did have some great coverage on this product and our approach to it.
Forbes did an article on us a couple of weeks ago, and we have been approached by a huge number of companies that want to be involved in this.
Part of this is a shout out if you want to be involved with what we’re doing and help push it forward and help us look for adoption, or if you have other ideas about how the technology can be used or other ways that you can integrate with us.
Our view is let’s all work together to help open the borders again, make tourism something that we’re all looking forward to, and can start planning for again, instead of the uncertainties of it.
Join the ShareRing Community
Thanks very much, you can find out more through either our website or you can email us directly on our email address that’s on the screen now or join the discussions that we’re having on Twitter.
We’ve got a very large community of people and followers that are very involved and very happy to have discussions around this or any of the other technology and solutions we’re working on, so thanks very much.
Thanks very much, Mr.Tim Bos, co-founder and chairman of ShareRing, thanks for joining.
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