Apple, Google debut major effort to help people track if they’ve come in contact with coronavirus

Apple, Google debut major effort to help people track if they’ve come in contact with coronavirus

The Washington Post reports:

Apple and Google unveiled an ambitious effort Friday to help combat the novel coronavirus, introducing new tools that could soon allow owners of smartphones to know if they have crossed paths with someone infected with the disease.

The changes the two companies announced targeting iPhone and Android devices could inject valuable new technological support into contact tracing, a strategy public health officials say is essential to allowing people to return to work and normal life while containing the spread of the pandemic.

Apple and Google are hoping to harness Bluetooth, a technology typically used to connect device owners’ wireless speakers and keyboards. With the aid of the technology, public health officials soon would be able to deploy apps with the ability to sense other smartphones nearby. If a person learns they have the coronavirus, they could indicate on their app they’ve been infected — and people whose smartphones have been in their vicinity would be notified, regardless of whether their devices run on Apple or Google software.

Apple and Google said they expect to make tools available to developers to assemble such contact-tracing apps as soon as mid-May, with further enhancements to the operating systems, expanding the systems’ reach, to follow.

The companies said the technology would not track a user’s specific location, nor would they reveal an infected person’s identity to the tech giants or to governments worldwide.

The announcement marks an unprecedented collaboration between the two tech rivals, among the country’s largest corporations. But the success of their efforts will hinge on whether public health officials can create apps fast enough, and whether people download and use them consistently. Most of all, it relies on the widespread availability of testing, a lingering challenge in the United States, where many Americans still cannot figure out if they’ve contracted the coronavirus despite recent claims from President Trump. [Continue reading…]

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