Two tech giants are partnering up to develop solutions to the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic.
Apple and Google, two of the largest tech companies in the world, are developing a contact tracing platform that will allow for increased contact tracing of COVID-19. The platform is designed to help public health authorities identify where COVID-19 transmission is happening and to help stop the spread of the virus.
Before releasing the full version of the platform, Google and Apple will release an application programming interface (API) that is designed as a temporary measure. This API will allow for interoperability between Android and Apple devices that uses apps from public health authorities.
The full version of the contact tracing platform will be built in the underlying Android and iOS platforms. A date for this has not been specified. This version, according to the companies, will be a “more robust solution” and will allow for their smartphones to interact with a “broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities” if they opt in.
According to a white paper released by the companies, contract racing is a way of fighting COVID-19 by alerting individuals of possible exposure to people that have recently been in contact with and who have been positively diagnosed with the virus. The method uses a Contact Detection Service, which detects nearby smartphones with the help of Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) and exchanges data between the devices.
The tracing platform requires explicit user content and reportedly does not collect personal identifiable information or user location data. The list of individuals that a user has been in contact with is not supposed to leave that individuals’ phone, and the data is only authorized for contact tracing by public health authorities.
In a diagram provided by Google and Apple, two individuals meet for the first time and have a conversation. One of the individuals is later positively diagnosed for COVID-19. Once the individual is diagnosed, they enter the test result into a public health authority’s app. This COVID-19 patient’s smartphone then exchanging anonymous identifier beacons with the person they spoke with, along with anyone else they came into contact. If the app has the user’s consent, their phone will upload the previous 14 days of “keys,”
Once the phones exchange beacons, the second person will receive a notification informing them that they have had contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.