On Friday Apple and Google have revealed an ambitious effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Both companies are introducing changes targeting iPhone and Android devices that can make it easier for developers around the world to create apps for contact tracing, i.e. to create a public health strategy public in order to allow owners of smartphones to know if they have crossed paths with someone infected with Covid-19.
The two big techs want to do this through bluetooth, a technology that is typically used to connect devices to wireless speakers and keyboards.
The idea is simple: if a person knows they have had contact with the virus, they can indicate this through the application. People close to the infected individual would then be notified about this through the app as well. All of this, using bluetooh.
According to a statement from both companies, first, in May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.
Second, in the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the 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.
Google and Apple said that “privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort”. Thus, the two big techs promise to “openly publish information” for others to analyze.