It was recently announced that Apple and Google will be working together on a COVID-19 contact tracing system
Apple has now revealed more information about the system
The company talked about the limitations of the system and how they plan on overcoming them
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A couple of days ago, Apple announced that it was partnering with Google to start a contact tracing system for COVID-19. However, in a report posted by The Verge, Apple has talked a bit more about about the system and how it will work as well as its limitations.
Before we get to that, here’s a quick recap. Apple and Google plan to implement COVID-19 contact tracing in two steps. The first step would be to release APIs that would enable interoperability between Android and iOS when using apps from public health authorities. The second step would launch later and would enable broader use of a Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform. You can know about about the initial announcement here.
As per The Verge’s report, Apple is aware of the limitations of using Bluetooth. Notably, Bluetooth will only inform people if they have passed by someone and won’t be able to take into proximity. Bluetooth signals have a range much greater than the minimum distance people have been asked to maintain. As such, it opens up the possibility of false positives. Apple said that it is investigating this issue and that the public health apps will be able to include duration of proximity once they have figured out what counts as a proximity event. For example, having a five-minute interval could help curb false positives that may be caused by who walked by you.
Apple also understands that the adoption of the system will be quite important too. As per the company, all a user has to do is update their phone to the latest version of the operating system and opt-in for the contact tracing API. Once done, their phone will start sending out Bluetooth signals and receiving the same signals sent out by other phones. Once users download a public health app that uses the system, it will share the user’s ‘proximity events’ from the past 14 days.
However, the system still does account for a multitude of other scenarios that may happen. Regardless, both companies plan to implement the first step in May, and we should learn more about the system post that.
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