Technology giants Apple and Google announced Friday a “joint effort” to enable the use of “Bluetooth” technology in the fight against the new coronavirus. The idea is to make it easier to track infected people, while respecting the privacy and consent of individuals, they said.
“Since proximity to infected persons contributes to the transmission of Covid-19, public health authorities have identified human contact tracing (also known as “contact tracing”) as a valuable tool to help contain its spread,” the two groups say.
Interoperability between Android and iOS
As a result, leading public health authorities, universities and NGOs around the world have been working to develop contact tracking technology on a voluntary basis. “To continue this approach”, Apple and Google plan to launch “a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to help enable contact tracking”.
Given the urgency of the situation, this solution will be implemented in two stages. In May, Apple and Google will release APIs that will enable interoperability between Android devices and iOS (the main operating systems for smartphones) in the use of public health authority applications. These official applications will be available for users to download via their respective application stores.
In a second step, i.e. “in the coming months”, Apple and Google will work on developing a broader contact tracking platform based on “Bluetooth”. “This is a more robust solution than an API, which would allow more people to participate, if they choose to join, as well as interaction with a wider ecosystem of applications linked to government health authorities,” they explain.
The two technology giants ensure that “transparency and user consent are of utmost importance in this effort”, and that this functionality will be developed “in consultation with relevant stakeholders.
“Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health officials, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of Covid-19 and accelerate the return to normal life,” Apple and Google conclude.