The new coronavirus is spreading rapidly throughout the world. Companies are now coming together to find a viable solution to curtail the further spread of this deadly virus. On Friday, Apple and Google announced a partnership regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The two American companies will cooperate to provide tools to help track the spread of the new coronavirus. The U.S. is one of the worse hit countries with almost 500,000 cases and over 18,000 deaths.
Apple said the two companies will launch developer tools (APIs) in May to “make the public health department’s applications (Apps) interoperable between Android and iOS devices“. These apps will be available in the iTunes App Store and Google Play store.
Experts have begun calling on the private sector to use so-called “syndromic surveillance” to track the spread of COVID-19. This is a technique that is very active in tracking epidemics. Smartphone tech companies are of major interest here because most people have mobile phones that can install apps.
“Google and Apple announced a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of viruses and to protect user privacy and security as the core of the design,” a press release announcing the partnership said.
Apple and Google’s tools will enable App makers to use Bluetooth technology to let people know some vital information. For example, people will know when they have been in contact with a diagnosed patient. This process is called “contact tracing”.
Users reserve the right to permit the Apple and Google app
Both Android and iOS devices allow users to choose which apps have the right to access the Bluetooth tracking location and can turn off tracking freely. It is unclear whether these apps will track individual locations or just track a confirmed patient’s contact with others.
Apple said in a press release: “In the next few months, Apple and Google will enable the broader Bluetooth-based contact tracking platform by building this feature in the base platform.”
It is worth noting that this method is “opt-in” tracking, which means that users must agree to accept tracking if they participate. “Contact tracing” allows health officials to monitor the spread of the virus by looking at who is in close contact with the infected person.
Similar applications are active in countries or regions such as Singapore. Mobile phones with contact tracking apps will record contact between people and store the data for 21 days. In Singapore, the Bluetooth signal records when people are close to each other. However, it does not collect the location of the users of the app.