Apple and Google are working together to overcome one of the greatest obstacles in the battle against the COVID-19 coronavirus — contact tracing, and the two mobile giants are launching a program to potentially send a warning to users ‘phones when they come into contact with someone with the coronavirus.
The companies explained in a joint statement this Friday how this will work — and how they both state they are integrating strong privacy safeguards into the service. Apple and Google, the announcement states, “will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing. Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy.”
What comes first is the release of APIs in May that will enable Android and iOS devices to talk to each other through public health authorities ‘apps — apps that will be available for users to download in the respective app stores of both companies.
Second, at some point after that (“in the months to come”) Apple and Google will introduce a Bluetooth-based contact-tracing platform that would enable users to engage in this on an opt-in basis, in addition to facilitating contact with a wide range of apps and government health authorities.
In terms of how it will all come together to control coronavirus spread, what it would look like visually is this:
Public officials and health experts have consistently stressed that returning to some degree of normalcy and re-opening the economy of the country is largely dependent on having good contact-tracing solutions. So that any case of the virus that flares up can be easily tracked down once we all start going out, out in public again, and the sick people isolated until all of this turns into a full-blown epidemic again.
“All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems,” the announcement concludes. “Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life.”