On Friday, Apple and Google revealed that they would work together to create contact tracking through Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies minimize the spread of the virus, with user privacy and protection at the core of the design.
Coronavirus, COVID-19 can be transmitted by close proximity to the individuals affected. Identifying people who may have come into touch with someone known to have been diagnosed with Coronavirus has become a major concern for states, health professionals, and public health organizations.
Apple and Google reported, “In May, both companies will release APIs that use public health apps to allow interoperability between Android and iOS devices. Users will be able to access certain official apps from their respective app stores in the document.
They will work together on technology that enables mobile devices to exchange information through Bluetooth connections to alert people when they are in close proximity to someone who has tested COVID-19 positive, the often deadly respiratory disease associated with the novel coronavirus.
They also said in the statement, “All of us at Apple and Google agree that there has never been a more critical moment to work together to address one of the most urgent problems in the world. By working together with developers, governments, and public health providers, we aim to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world delay COVID-19’s spread.
Over the coming months, Apple and Google are both preparing to integrate the monitoring technology directly into their underlying operating systems so that users don’t have to download any applications to start logging nearby phones.
The companies said the system won’t monitor users’ location or identity, but rather will only collect data when users’ phones have been close to each other, with data being decrypted on the user’s phone rather than the company’s servers. Position data for GPS isn’t part of the initiative, the companies said. Governments around the world have been struggling to create or review tools intended to enhance the typically labor-intensive contact tracing process, in which health officials go to an infected person’s recent contacts and ask them to self-quarantine or be checked.
Identifying people who may have come into touch with someone who has been reported to be infected with the Coronavirus has become a major concern for states, health professionals, and public health organizations. Contact tracking technology is an extremely useful resource to help locate these people, allowing health officials to access them rapidly for testing, surveillance, quarantining, and care.
Experts in health technology also said Apple and Google’s participation would be a major boost to their efforts, as contact tracking applications from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others struggled to make their software work through operating systems competitions.
Apple and Google will collaborate to create a wider Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by integrating this feature into the underlying technologies. It is a more flexible solution than an API which will encourage more users to participate if they want to opt-in, as well as connect with a larger community of applications that government health authorities.