With COVID-19 cases increasing globally, governments and health agencies around the world are attempting to curb the spread of the virus through contact tracing (tracing who an infected person recently came in contact with to determine who else might be infected).
Tech giants Apple and Google recently announced that they will contribute to the effort by collaborating on new COVID-19 contact tracing technology.
According to a statement from Apple, the contact tracing tech will incorporate newly designed application programming interfaces (APIs) and Bluetooth functionality, while also prioritizing user privacy and security.
“Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy,” Apple said.
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The first step happens next month in May, when both companies plan to release APIs that will allow Android and iOS devices to function with each other while using apps from public health authorities.
These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores (the App Store and Google Play).
Then, in the coming months, Apple and Google would work to enable a Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into their underlying platforms.
“This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities,” said Apple. “Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders.”
As part of their partnership, the companies are releasing draft technical documentation and have stated that will openly publish information about their work for others to analyze.
More details about this technology are expected in the months to come.