Know How Apple and Google’s Contact Tracing App Works
At the time of writing this article, the coronavirus cases had grown to 21,84,608 and the death toll had risen to 1,46,898. Even though the origin source lies uncertain, the extent to which the virus has spread was something that nobody was prepared for.
Originating from Wuhan, COVID-19 has today infected the entire world. Every single nation today is struggling with finding ways that would help stop the spread and flatten the curve. One solution that has emerged and been accepted globally is the use of social distancing – by definition, if people don’t interact in person, the virus that spread through human contact will fail to find a host and cease to exist.
While a great solution on papers, in reality, its success lies in the understanding that an individual has not come in contact with anyone who is infected.
Through digital contact tracing, companies are implementing technology to digitize an arduous and epidemiological process known as “contact tracing,” where the health workers trace disease transmission from patient zero to a patient they might have contacted.
In their most basic technical form, the COVID-19 the contact tracing mobile apps, interact with their users through Bluetooth and then store their data locally. The moment someone is tested positive for COVID-19 and marked in the system, it enables government to trace the users to whom the carrier has made contact by the time stamps. A record of the geographical movements are shared through the healthcare officials. Moreover, other app users who came in contact with the infected person’s phone, they will get notified of the infection risk and are advised to self-isolate.
Google and Apple are jointly developing a software into their Android and iPhone devices for helping the process of tracking coronavirus spread by telling the users if they have come into contact with an infected person or are potentially sick themselves.
The two tech giants said that in the first phase of the project that will most likely roll out by mid of May, the users will have to download an application – created by public health agency – which will be able to access all the digital contact tracing data gathered by the mobile devices, through the mode of an API. In the phase two, the brands will develop a deeper functionality in their respective operating systems in a way that the users will no more have to download any app to begin contact tracing, they will only have to opt in.
In the official PR statement, Apple said, “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 Working of Google and Apple’s Contact Tracing App
To develop the voluntary contact tracing network, Apple and Google will be dependent on Bluetooth’s usage for making extremely short-distance communication between two devices. Once someone is tested positive for a virus, they will have to enter the information in an app on the phone and people who were near them in inder 14 days will get notifications and will get alerts. Throughout the process, the users’ information will be kept private and confidential. Your own information remains private.
A simpler worded example: Suppose after 5 days of you downloading the app and starting the contact tracing process – meaning your phone has started broadcasting and receiving a crypto-code for identifying itself to other phones – you get tested positive for COVID-19. You will then report the case in the secure server which is managed by Apple and Google.
The server, in turn, will alert the phones of everybody who you came into contact with in the past 14 days, as the people generally carry the virus for 14 days before showing any symptoms. They would then start getting alerts that will take them to the public health agency where they will get the instructions on what to do next. It can be anything between getting tested, self-quarantining, or even going in for the treatment.
What Does it Mean for the Contact Tracing App Developers?
Ever since digital contact tracing has been noted as the ideal solution for flattening the curve, there have been multiple app development agencies that have started creating digital solutions for the same purpose. The moment contact tracing comes out as an operating system opt in, those applications or solutions will cease to exist.
A Google spokesperson said, “the tracking data should be restricted to organizations that are legally allowed to practice public health. The person said third-party apps have struggled to do much good, because they can’t bridge device types or operating systems. Of course, the virus recognizes no such barriers. So the third-party apps fail to track a large enough pool of people to prevent the disease from moving through a population.”
But the developers’ ecosystem should still not get disappointed. For the stakeholders will still need to get reliable iPhone app development services and their Android services counterparts. Only this time, the stakeholders will not be the users. The stakeholders will be the many healthcare authorities that will seek help to create apps that can use Google and Apple’s API.