Week In Review Home Edition: Google and Apple Create Contact Tracing System for COVID-19
In accordance with the social distancing guidelines that have been put in place until further notice, we will be conducting Week in Review from home. Enjoy!
Technology has been great at answering the question of how to stay connected during this strict social distancing period. It’s the reason many of us are still able to work, see our family members, and just flat out kill time. But now as we’re weeks into quarantine here in the United States, tech companies have started to work towards answering the bigger question.
Among the most recent attempts comes from Apple and Google. The two companies have put their heads together and come up with a coronavirus contact tracing system for iOS and Android. Unlike the GPS tracking systems we’ve seen, this method will collect data on who people have been in close proximity to using Bluetooth. Beginning in May, both companies will release APIs that’ll enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities.
Users will be able to download an app where they can report if they’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19. The app will establish who this person has been in contact with over the past 14 days based on their iOS or Android data. The at-risk users will then be notified that they had come in contact with an infected person. To keep everyone’s data private, the phones will exchange anonymous identifiers every 15 minutes.
The success of this method will rely on everyone having these verified apps in the short term, but Apple and Google are hoping to install this feature into iOS and Android operating systems in a few months. Although there may be a few hiccups in the beginning. For one, it doesn’t seem like people will be able to know when they were exposed because that might give them an idea of who has it. And then there’s the potential that some people will be incorrectly notified that they have come in contact with an infected person when they in fact have not.
But all things considered, Apple and Google are headed in the right direction. This method could significantly help stop the spread of the coronavirus by helping people understand sooner, rather than later, if they have been directly exposed.
Now we’ll just need everyone to get on board with downloading these apps - once we know what they are - with the same tenacity as other precautions we've been taking.
Stay home and stay safe!