Apple and Google come together for COVID-19 contact tracing tech

Human history is dotted with plenty of examples when men made extraordinary inventions to satisfy their requirements. It brought the famous adage to the world that “Necessity is the mother of invention.” This statement has been proved again by the two super kings of technology; Apple, the daddy of smartphones, and Google, the mother of the Android system.


Amidst the Corona pandemic, that has clasped more than 185 countries. Experts are busy everywhere in searching for an antidote of the virus. The unavailability of the cure to the virus has made it difficult to combat the virus. The deadly virus spreads either from direct contact with the infected person or contact with the droplets generated by him. These infected droplets invade the respiratory system of humans and reduce the oxygen-carrying capacity of the lungs. However, the corona volunteers are facing extreme difficulty in tracing the infected persons and their contacts.


The two popular American tech giants Apple and Google have come to the forefront to do an extra bit in this critical situation. They have decided to join hands to launch a new user interface in May. The interface would delay the transmission of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) by contact tracing, working with the help of Bluetooth on Android and iOS devices. The program will be launched in two stages by the two Californian MNCs. A complex network of phone ID logs will be created in the first stage. The keycode of the phone is exchanged when two persons having that particular app will meet. They will update their status and share it with the database if a person gets infected with the virus. The system will alert the person who came into contact with the infected person during the last 15 days.


The interoperability between Android and iOS will be made functional by May. And later on, the Bluetooth based strategy would operate. The Bluetooth LE signals will be used for contact tracing. Users would be able to download these apps from App stores or Play stores. To maintain transparency of the working of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and Bluetooth, both the companies have said that they will publish every detail about the working of the apps. The partners announced that the privacy and security of their customers would be allotted prime importance. The APIs will work universally in all the apps, irrespective of the operating system. No app is required to be downloaded in the next phase. A software update will serve the purpose.


The wider range of the new tracking system gives it an edge over the existing ones. The existing data suggests that more than 60% of infected persons do not suffer from severe symptoms and may unintentionally act as the coronavirus transmitter. The apps will help police to detect these potential transmitters.


The phone’s unique ID would enable the database to track the contacts of the infected person if the diagnosed person tested positive for coronavirus. He can submit the data willingly. The brainchild of Steve Jobs, Apple, informed that the detection system would use Bluetooth Low Energy for detecting smartphones lying nearby, and it will share information after asking for the consent of the user. Even a GPS location is not required for the apps to function.


We witnessed that by the end of March, Various tech companies volunteered to donate masks and sanitizers to the health workers. Facebook and Tesla also came to the frontline to aid the health workers by providing masks free of costs. The panic of coronavirus shot the demand for masks among the public, which led to their short supply for the health workers. Day by day siege surveillance (tracing the contacts of an infected person) is becoming difficult for the policemen, especially in corona hotspots. The interface will give respite to the policemen.


Google has incorporated various philanthropic works earlier as well. In 2004, it formed an organization to improve global health, reduce poverty, and restore climate. In 2012, it launched another campaign to legalize the rights of the gay population. Similarly, Apple has been working towards improving funds for AIDS patients. It is remembered for making a huge monetary donation when hurricane Sandy hit the American shores.


On the other hand, Apple has already ventured to protect wildlife on Earth. The tech revolutionary is renowned for making several charities silently viz., a donation to the American Red Cross, National Security of Black Engineers, Mercy Corps, and The Conservation Fund.


Software engineers around the world, have already built a few apps which are being used locally to spread the updates about the virus. Like in Israel, Poland, and Singapore. The Bluetooth will consume less energy and can work for a 100 m range. One of its limitations is large obstacles like a wall can block it.


The tech kings have shown to the world, the glamorous competition, and collaboration at the appropriate times. The ambitious initiative in this medical emergency deserves public support. It will act as scaffolding to the health volunteers and agencies, who are continuously working in the middle of the crisis. The initiative will reduce panic in the community. The European Union’s Data Protection Supervisor pointed out that the initiative requires further assessment. The European government is being contacted to take their nod for the plan.

Image Credits: Getty Images

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