Health authorities and governments across the world are working together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which has till now taken 114,215 lives and infected over 1,850,220 people. To protect people and get society back up and running, while a few tech giants have come forward to help financially, a few software firms are contributing by devising technical tools to help combat the virus and save lives.
The latest to join in this spirit of collaboration are Google and Apple, who have announced a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.
Since people in close proximity of a coronavirus positive person are more likely to contract the infection, public health organisations have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. Apple and Google would soon announce a comprehensive solution including application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to support contact tracing. And given the urgent need, Apple and Google have planned to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong user privacy.
The first step would come into action in May, wherein both companies will release APIs to enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. Users can download these apps from either Apple App Store or Google Play Store, depending on the smartphone they are using.
In the second step, which will be live in the coming months, Apple and Google would build a Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform functionality into their underlying platforms. Both the companies believe that this would be a more robust solution than an API and would allow for more individuals to participate if they choose to opt-in.
‘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 analyse,’ Apple said in a blog post.
Here is how Bluetooth-based contact tracing would work