Technology giants Apple and Google on Friday announced a “joint effort” aimed at using Bluetooth technology to help efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus (Covid-19) by facilitating contact tracing while respecting individuals’ right to privacy.
“Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread,” the two companies said in a press release.
Leading public health authorities, universities and NGOs around the world have been working to develop voluntary contact tracing technology, according to the two technology giants.
“To further this cause, Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing,” they said.
Given the urgency of the situation, this solution will be implemented in two steps, they explained. In May, Apple and Google will publish the APIs that enable interoperability between Android and IOS devices using applications from public health authorities. People will be able to download these official applications from the app stores on their telephones.
“In the months to come”, Apple and Google will work on the second step – developing a broader contact tracing platform based on Bluetooth. “ 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,” the companies explained.
The two technology giants stressed that “privacy, transparency and consent are of utmost importance in this effort,” adding that the functionality will be developed “in consultation with interested stakeholders.”
“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,” Apple and Google concluded.