Technology

Apple and Google hasten COVID-19 contact tracing apps plan

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Apple and Google partner to fight COVID-19

Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing.

Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments, and public health providers, the two tech giants want to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of the normal life. The firms say it would take until mid-May.

Apple’s version will require an updated version of its mobile operating system. However, some countries would prefer firms to be less prescriptive.

Apple and Google’s system is based on the use of Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) beacons. Effectively, the two handsets wirelessly come into contact with each other, and in doing so exchange a string of randomly-generated numbers that can be used to log matches without revealing the users’ names, location, or other identifying information.

Apple and Google partner to fight COVID-19

Contact-tracing apps are based on the principle that people’s smartphones can be used to log when two people are in close enough proximity for long enough that there’s a high risk of contagion if one of them has the coronavirus.

If one of the phone-owners is subsequently diagnosed as having caught the virus, others they might have infected can be sent alerts advising them to get tested or go into self-isolation.

By combining the use of such apps with other measures including manual contact tracing by humans and frequent handwashing the hope is that the spread of the disease can be slowed or suppressed.

Apple and Google partner to fight COVID-19

Representatives from the team responsible said they had listened to feedback received from health authorities, governments and data protection watchdogs, and made changes to both increase security and to make it easier for apps to be built using the API (application programming interface) building block they are providing.

 

Felicity Gitonga

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