Apple and Google's coronavirus-tracing technology is ready

Apple and Google's coronavirus-tracing technology is ready
The first version of Apple and Google's COVID-tracing software is now available. It will be used to alert people who might have been exposed to a COVID-19 patient.

It uses contact tracing, which is something health authorities use to trace people who may have been exposed to an infected person. By identifying infected people and quarantining them, governments try to contain infections. Since we have technology at our disposal now, governments no longer have to rely on the memory of people for this process.

And this is where Apple and Google come in. They want to augment manual contact tracing and help slow down the spread of the coronavirus. Their tech could especially be helpful for identifying asymptomatic patients who are interacting with other people, unbeknownst to the fact that they have caught the virus.

The tech is opt-in and based on Bluetooth. The smartphones of the users who enable the tech will broadcast random, frequently changing keys and if someone later tests positive for the coronavirus, their phone will list the identifiers it encountered. The corresponding users will then be notified that they had been in contact with someone who has tested positive. They can then get themselves tested and go into quarantine if needed. 

The keys cannot be traced back to individual users and the system is decentralized.

Independent efforts by countries to make similar apps have largely failed. The collaboration between the two giants will take care of a major issue: the inability of phones to detect each other sometimes. That's because the exposure notification tech works across both iPhones and Android handsets. 

Apple and Google will not develop contact tracing apps


Apple and Google's exposure notification technology is now available to health authorities so they can build apps easily. iOS and Android are getting updated for compatibility with these apps. 

Numerous US states and 22 countries have shown interest in the tools. The two tech giants have not used GPS to protect the privacy of people and some governments think that this could undermine the purpose of the contact tracing process. 

The success of the tech will largely be dependent on user adoption and both companies believe that the privacy protection measures they have put in place will encourage the use of contact tracing apps. 

North Dakota, Alabama, and South Carolina in the US, and Germany are already in and will use Apple and Google's tech to make apps. France and the UK, on the other hand, aren't too keen on using the API.

The tech will be disabled once the pandemic is over. For now, it's far from over.

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