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Apple and Google Contact Tracing for COVID-19 Detection

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The COVID-19 Pandemic has hit us all hard and it has sent us scurrying into our homes for shelter. States and countries have gone into quarantine and enforced lockdowns to try and control its spread. Another big problem is that after getting infected, a person stays asymptomatic for about a week. After this, they start showing symptoms. During this period, they are able to infect other individuals. When someone catches the coronavirus, it is highly likely that the people around them will catch it too. Hence, contact tracing becomes very important. Different governments and companies are trying to find a way to trace COVID-19 victims. But it seems like Apple and Google contact tracing will be a savior in this case.

Why is contact tracking necessary?

Since a person is likely to pass on the infection to the people around them, we all need to be careful. Once a person tests positive, it is important to trace who all they came in contact with. One person may give it to a few people they came in contact with and they may further spread it to others. Hence tracing and testing the contacts of a coronavirus patient is important. It is imperative to stop the spread and keep the pandemic under control. The cases of local transmission where one individual spread the virus to their contacts need to be controlled. Otherwise, it could lead to community transmissions where entire communities are infected.

Current Status of Contact Tracing

As of now, governments and hospitals bear the onus of performing contact tracing. They ask the patient to mention everyone they came in contact with. Then they reach out to them and warn them to self-quarantine. Then they are tested and the further procedure is done based on whether or not they test positive. This is risky as a patient may not remember everyone, they came in contact with over the last 10 days.

Moreover, there is no way to know if someone is withholding any information. Thus, its accuracy remains limited to a person’s memory and willingness. However, tech companies are now stepping in to take this up. They’re doing so in order to help governments manage the pandemic. The two tech giants Apple and Google have come together to launch Apple and Google Contact Tracing software. Know all about it here.

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Apple and Google Contact Tracing Software

Apple and Google Contact Tracing software has been in the works for a while. Recently they released a few images and guidelines on what it will look like. They also issued guidelines on how their software will integrate with the public health apps already launched by different governments. The companies also elaborated on how it will work to notify the person if they’ve come in contact with a COVID-19 positive patient.

They also informed their requirements for the apps that wish to onboard with the Apple and Google Contact Tracing software. They elucidated that these apps must not run any ads or collect any location data of its users. The two companies are rivals in the field of technology but they have collaborated on this project. Keeping commercial rivalry aside they have come together to create a comprehensive platform.

The software

Instead of creating a whole new software and launching it on their own, they’ve taken a different approach. The Apple and Google contact tracing software will integrate with the already existing contact tracing apps. Many authorities have also asked for their help in developing the pre-existing apps. This will ensure cohesion among different apps launched by different entities. It will help governments and health care facilities coordinate and launch a robust contact tracing approach. Since it will integrate with the existing apps, it will bolster their accuracy and abilities.

This software will help governments track the spread of COVID-19 using Bluetooth technology. They will roll out an API feature later this month. Government and healthcare authorities can use this to integrate with their pre-existing apps on Android or iOS systems. Eventually, the Apple and Google contact tracing software will be used for notifications as well. The software will notify people who have come in contact with a COVID-19 positive patient. They can then be called in for testing. This will significantly improve contact tracing efficiency and help control the spread of the virus.

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The Purpose

The reason these two giants have come together is simple. Virtually all the phones in the world run on the software created by either of them. They plan to leverage this and put disease tracking abilities in almost every smartphone around the world. They want to create a global disease mapping and monitoring system which will help combat the spread of COVID-19. Moreover, this could give them a much-needed foothold into the healthcare industry. They are also trying to beat the privacy concerns of people who had been raised before the start of COVID-19. They suffered public backlash because of it and this could be their move to counter it.

The Claims

Both companies claim that they have no ulterior motives behind this venture. They claim that they only want to build a more robust disease tracking system. The companies have also declared that Apple and Google contact tracing software is meant to augment existing efforts. It doesn’t aim to replace the measures put out by the authorities. Rather it aims to link them, augment them and make them more cohesive. They have also said that apps wishing to utilize the software shouldn’t be collecting any location data of its users.

Final Thoughts

Current methods have only had a limited impact on controlling COVID-19. Contact tracing has been useful but not always efficient. The rate of spread of infection is still muted since countries and states are in lockdown. Sooner or later, the world will have to open up and countries will have to restart their economies. This scenario will see a spike in the spread of infections since people would no longer be confined to their homes. In such a scenario, Apple and Google contact tracing software will be particularly useful. Since people will be moving about, it will provide a live tracking mechanism. It will keep the authorities and the people ahead by warning them early if they have chances of having contracted COVID-19.

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