Rippl: Privacy by Design contact tracing and alerting

Helping the NZ Ministry of Health manage COVID-19 check-ins and contact tracing



UX Design
Mobile App Development

Introducing Rippl​

What started as an experiment at the beginning of lockdown (March 2020) has now become one of the biggest contact tracing solutions in New Zealand. We’ve had thousands of business venues using Rippl and over 80,000 app downloads – positioning Rippl as the most downloaded app in both the App Store and Google Play Store at the time. 

Helping Kiwi businesses stay in business​

PaperKite wanted to help businesses get back on their feet. It was extremely important that venues keep their own staff safe while also building confidence with their customers who understandably may feel uneasy returning to businesses they had no qualms about visiting before. After almost two months confined to their own bubble, there was a real need to encourage customers back to restaurants, cafes and bars and Rippl meaningfully helped with this.

We designed and developed a portal for businesses to register for a unique QR code. They were sent a poster to stick to the outside of their venue. Before Ministry of Health released NZ COVID Tracer, Rippl was the only option available, gaining endorsement from both Wellington City Council and Dunedin City Council.

Checking in is fast and easy​

Users check into venues they visit by scanning the venue’s QR code with a built-in scanner. Venues register with Rippl to get their unique code, and staff verify that users have checked in on their Rippl app before they are served. Rippl users check in and out of venues offline, without the need for internet access.

Privacy by design​​

Rippl doesn’t gather any personal information from users, ever. And still enables health services to contact people when needed. When health services do need to contact someone who has potentially been in close contact with a carrier, this is done anonymously. The anonymous owner of the phone is sent an alert, which Rippl uses to silently check the local check-in history to see if they were checked in at the time of interest. Rippl then asks only those people who were there to contact Ministry of Health and reveal their identity.

Becoming integration partners with Ministry of Health

In August 2020 PaperKite released a message asking venues with a Rippl QR code to replace their Rippl posters with government issued QR codes. NZ Covid Tracer is unable to scan RIppl codes. We continue to get heaps of positive feedback from people who, for a variety of reasons, have decided not to use NZ COVID Tracer. As Rippl is an official Ministry of Health integration partner, it is provided as a valid alternative and able to scan Ministry of Health QR codes.

In November 2020 we issued an announcement. “We are delighted to confirm that Ministry of Health – Manatū Hauora have selected us as their integration partner, allowing Rippl to be integrated with the Ministry’s contact tracing APIs.”

As a Ministry of Health (NZ) integration partner, we helped support nationwide contact tracing by enabling Rippl users to easily exchange digital contact tracing information with the Ministry (when they choose to).

Phase 1 integration is now complete with automated event notification functionality live. We’re working with the Ministry team on further integration opportunities.

Conversational UX Chatbot​

Our chatbot on the Rippl landing page only took a few hours to create, and handled over a thousand conversations with users in the first month of release. Our response team no longer had to context-switch between enquiries and their other work – which means we could go back to being our most productive selves without frequent interruptions. Our Rippl chatbot continues to do the heavy lifting for us as Rippl continues to be a popular solution for Privacy-First Contact Tracing and Alerts.

Data as Taonga

As a New Zealand company, it’s important to us that we consider data as taonga, and strive to align with Treaty guidelines for the use of Māori data. We worked closely with Karaitiana Taiuru to review Rippl against the guidelines, concluding that the privacy-first approach meant that many boxes had been ticked. The use of Catalyst Cloud means that all Rippl data stays in Aotearoa. It also means that registering for Rippl is significantly faster (the distance to servers is much shorter) and the carbon footprint for Rippl is much smaller. All things PaperKite find very important.

When we launched Rippl in 2020, we noticed a small number of business sign-ups to the Rippl portal requesting a QR code for contact tracing for their business, that were rejected by our server. On closer investigation, we discovered the source of the issue — while first names within an email address using macrons were fine, domain names that included a macron were being rejected.

We made sure to update our front-end validation process to accept accented characters by converting the verification emails we send back to new sign-ups into Punycode before sending. Read our blog about this here.

Massive thanks to Karaitiana for his assistance and guidance in translating the onboarding screens, privacy policy and terms and conditions into Māori.

The numbers​

Awards and accolades

Privacy Trust Mark

In June 2020, Rippl was awarded the Privacy Trust Mark, joining Air New Zealand, RealMe and Trademe on the honour roll. This award identifies products and services that the Privacy Commissioner considers to be outstanding in the way they manage personal information. The award is intended to give consumers confidence that products like Rippl have used a “Privacy by Design” approach, and can be trusted. The award follows a thorough review by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of the Rippl solution and PaperKite’s privacy practices.

FastCompany Innovation by Design 2021 Honourable Mention

Rippl was named as an honorable mention in the Pandemic Response category in Fast Company’s 2021 Innovation by Design Awards. The program highlights designers and businesses who are solving the problems of today and tomorrow.

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