We are yet to be out of the woods from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, almost every country in the world is following strict protocols and imposing lockdowns to curb the virus’ spread. However, self-isolation and social distancing is one of the precautions. Many countries are also leveraging different technologies and have come up with apps to limit the effects of COVID-19. Google and Apple have announced a partnership to provide a push for these efforts.
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Google and Apple partner up for developing contract tracing tech
Google and Apple have announced a partnership to develop contact tracing technology. Since almost all phones worldwide run on either Android and iOS, this tech might prove to be beneficial for stopping the virus’ spread. This move is aimed at helping governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.
“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,” the two companies stated in a blog post.
Google and Apple’s plan of action
Both Google and Apple have briefly detailed a two-step plan of how they will further boost contact tracing. In May, the companies will release an Application Programming Interface or API, which will enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for download via Android and iOS official app stores.
Later in the coming months, the two companies will work together to enable a “broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms.” This means that the feature to enable contact tracing could very well be embedded in the Android and iOS operating system. As per the companies, this will be a more reliable solution than API and will enable more people to participate and opt-in.
While contact tracing is definitely a good step towards limiting the spread of coronavirus, there’s always big concern about user privacy. Regarding this, the companies state, “Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze.”
How ‘contact tracing’ works
Contact tracing technology makes use of Bluetooth on smartphones, which is a short range mode of communication. When an app using the service detects that a user’s phone is in close proximity to another phone that has a similar app installed, it is logged. In case the user later reports testing positive for the coronavirus, the app makes it easier to find people that might have come in contact with the person and perform rapid testing.
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