Technology giants Google and Apple are working on a Covid-19 monitoring tool to help health officials and individuals find out when someone has been in close proximity to an infected patient.
The tool is a joint venture between the two companies, which focus on developing a tracking system that is interoperable on iOS and Android devices. According to the announcement, software developers will use Bluetooth technology to develop application programming interfaces (APIs) designed to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus.
The key will be to get people to participate
The companies say they want to maintain strong user privacy protections in the implementation of the tool, which can be integrated into the apps of public health authorities. Android and iOS users would be able to download the app, which is expected to be released in May, via Google Play and the App Store.
The second phase is much more solid as it will implement system-level contact tracking technology on all iOS and Android devices. “In the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracking platform, creating this functionality via the underlying platforms.
This is a more solid solution than an API and would allow for more Investors to participate, if they choose to join, as well as allowing interaction with a wider ecosystem of government apps and health authorities. Privacy, transparency and consent are of the utmost importance in this effort and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with stakeholders. "
The second phase will use technology implemented at the system level
Once an infected person notifies a public authority of the positive diagnosis of Covid-19 via an app, the system will send an alert to all users who have signed up and who are in the immediate vicinity of the patient.
The data would remain anonymous to protect privacy. People who test positive will not be revealed to Apple, Google or other users. Nor will the system transmit any location data, as the tracking tool is intended to alert people who have been close to someone who has been infected, regardless of a specific address or region, so that they are tested, require treatment and / or put themselves in quarantine.
Apple CEO Tim Cook says, “Contact tracing can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and can be done without compromising user privacy. We are partnering with Sundar Pichai and Google to help health officials take advantage of Bluetooth technology so as to also respect transparency and consensus. "
In addition to the Google-Apple collaboration, several startups and universities are working on various approaches to combat the spread of the virus using monitoring technology while maintaining user privacy.