Google and Apple, tech rivals, have partnered in a massive project to help Americans use contract tracing technology amid COVID -19 and would notify users if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Health authorities across the world are working to find the solution to the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the people and bring life to normal. IT companies and developers are making an effort by developing technical tools to help the people fight the virus. Top IT giants and rivals, Apple and Google also announced a joint effort to help the Government and health organizations reduce the spread of the virus using Bluetooth technology with user privacy and security.
COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity between the infected person, so it is important to identify a solution using contact tracing technology. Apple and Google are working together on a comprehensive solution that includes APIs and operating system level compatibility to enable contact tracing technology. Considering the urgency of the implementation plan of this solution is divided into two steps maintaining user privacy protection.
In the first phase, both companies are working together to release API's in May 2020 in coordination with health authorities. Android and iOS apps will be available on respective app stores to download. Moving forward, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms. This solution will be better and robust than the API solution developed in the first phase.
The solution will be based on user consent and integrated with government health authorities' data. Privacy, consent, and transparency will be an important factor here. For the solution to work - the phone screen needs to be active, and the app should be in foreground mode always to make it work. The application will not work if the user turns off the screen or uses an app other than the contact tracing app.
Contact detection is a BLE service registered with Bluetooth with 16-bit UUID 0xFD6F. It's designed to enable proximity sensing of the Rolling Proximity Identifier between the device for the purpose of computing and exposure events. Devices will advertise and scan for the contact detection service by way of its 16-bit service UDID.
The contact tracing API framework is designed to help developers to implement a privacy-preserving contact tracing solution. It covers two user roles:
- Affected user: A user who reports themselves as positively diagnosed as having the virus.
- Exposed User: A user who has notified themselves as potentially exposed to an Affected user.
Apple said it would roll out the update to the broadest number of available iOS devices. Most of the iPhones and iPads are running on the latest version of iOS 13 and will receive the update. Google will also update the Google play services, a core part of the Android with a contact tracing system. Android devices with version 6.0 and newer can avail of this service, not just the recently updated devices.
Apple and Google believe its more important to work together to solve the world's most pressing problem COVID-19 through close cooperation and collaboration with software developers, government, and public health providers.