Apple and Google Join Forces and Launch COVID-19 Tracing ToolBy José Escobedo | Mon, 04/13/2020 - 15:56
Imagine being able to know if you have been exposed to the deadly COVID-19 virus and if so, what steps must you take in order to get tested. Apple and Google’s engineering teams have joined forces to create a contact tracing tool that will help people determine whether they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. This information can be obtained by using a contact tracing system. This is a helpful tool that can potentially help public health authorities track the spread of the virus and provide information to those who have been exposed so they can take action and get tested.
According to a team led by MIT and scientists from other universities, this system relies on short-range Bluetooth signals emitted from people’s smartphones. These represent random strings of numbers, likened to “chirps” that other nearby smartphones can remember hearing. The way the system works is by identifying and keeping track of people who may have come in contact with a person who has COVID-19. “I keep track of what I’ve broadcasted and you keep track of what you’ve heard. This will allow us to tell if someone was in close proximity to an infected person,” says Ron Rivest, MIT Institute Professor and head investigator of the project.
Apple and Google say the first phase of the project is an API that public health agencies will be able to integrate into their own apps. The next phase is a system-level contact tracing system that will work across iOS and Android devices on an opt-in basis. In a briefing, Apple and Google said for the first phase, a private proximity contact detection API will be released in mid-May by both Apple and Google for use in apps on iOS and Android. The API is a simple one and should be relatively easy for existing or planned apps to integrate.