The entire world is finding different ways to contain the spread of coronavirus while a cure or vaccine is developed. The fast-spreading virus has brought the world to a standstill with lockdowns everywhere and the rising number of cases and deaths due to COVID-19. So far, health officials around the world are relying on COVID-19 patients' honesty and memory to track those who are potentially exposed, but there's room for error in tracking every potentially exposed individual down using the old-school methods.
To overcome the challenge of tracing coronavirus affected person contact history, long-known rivals, Apple and Google have joined hands to come up with a technological solution and it could effectively work without human intervention.
Both tech giants are working to create a decentralized contact tracing tool to notify individuals who have come in contact with COVID-19 infected persons. Google and Apple will release APIs for public health agencies to integrate the tool into their own apps. Then a system-level contact tracing system will work across iOS and Android devices.
How does COVID-19 tracing tool work?
With the help of smartphones' radios like Bluetooth, the tool will transmit anonymous ID over short ranges. TechCrunch explained that the system works by exchanging anonymous identifiers between phones of people standing near each other for any period of time. If one of the persons is tested positive for coronavirus and entered into the system through an app with Apple and Google API, the coronavirus patient can allow his anonymous identifiers to be transmitted to the system for 14 days.
Now, any user who has the public health app with the broadcast keys of positive tests, will be notified of a match if the user had been in contact with COVID-19 patient.
The way the system works might seem like one's privacy is breached, but Apple and Google are making sure the privacy and transparency of this project that in no way compromises personal privacy. The system doesn't use location data, assigns random and anonymous identifiers, which rotates every 15 minutes, and has no personal info attached. The entire system works with an opt-in model, and those who test positive won't be revealed to others in any way.
"All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world's most pressing problems. Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life," Apple and Google said in a joint statement on Friday.