The novel coronavirus has become a increasingly dangerous threat to just about every aspect of society due to how easily it can be transmitted. To help slow down the disease, Apple and Google have announced they will work together to develop tools which will allow governments to perform contact tracing. The vast majority of the world’s smartphones run either Android or iOS, making both companies indispensable for a plan such as this.
The companies are developing a system which ‘assists in enabling contact tracing’ by using APIs for public health apps as well as offering them operating system level support to access the Bluetooth function of devices. They will release APIs to allow for interoperability between Android and iOS next month, making the system much more effective. Later on, ‘broader’ Bluetooth based contact tracing will be enabled. Of course, privacy is of the utmost concern and users will have to opt in to the service for it to be enabled.
The tools they plan to develop will allow users to leverage Bluetooth technology already present in their smartphones to log which other phones they have been near over a period of time. This way, if someone tests positive for COVID-19, everyone who they’ve had close contact with over the past 14 days can be easily tracked and tested. This makes testing much more easy and efficient as the list of potentially infected people produced automatically. Plus, the number of people that need to be tested is narrowed down significantly.
For now, our main defense against the coronavirus is self-isolation and the lockdown of all public proceedings. However, this isn’t a very sustainable plan and lockdowns will have to lifted in the near future. According to health experts, this technology could be crucial to managing this crisis once that happens.