Apple and Google have announced the start of a joint project to combat the spread of COVID-19. The project involves the creation of a system based on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and official apps of healthcare organizations. Companies published relevant information and explained that users would be able to voluntarily connect to the system and receive alerts about whether they had close contact with someone with COVID-19.
Using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) smartphones, users will exchange identification keys, which are continually changing while maintaining the anonymity of the owner of the device. All keys are uploaded to the cloud with the permission of users and are stored there for 14 days. In the future, if a person becomes infected with COVID-19 and enters the test results into the application of a local health organization, he/she can allow the system to send an alert to other people with whom he/she had close contact. All the data are anonymous, and other users will only receive information that they had contact with an infected person, as well as instructions regarding further actions.
Apple and Google want to automate the processes that are now taking place in many countries. Namely, local authorities are trying to track people's contacts with COVID-19 patients and test those who could potentially get infected. In May, companies plan to release APIs that will ensure the compatibility of Android and iOS devices for working with apps of official healthcare organizations.
“Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. A number of leading public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology,” mentioned both tech giants in blog posts.
Also, in the coming months, Apple and Google will work on expanding the contact tracking system based on Bluetooth, introducing this functionality into their base platforms. It is a more robust solution than the API, which allows you to connect more users (with their consent) and also interact with a broader ecosystem of applications and government health authorities. Apple and Google point out that confidentiality, transparency, and consent are paramount in these efforts, and companies are counting on building this functionality in consultation with interested parties.
Besides, both companies promise to publish information about their work on this project openly.