Google and Apple announced today about a new system that will enable public health authorities to use smartphones to help trace contact without the need to create an app.
A new system of exposure notifications – called Exposure Notifications Express – will allow public health officials to send a small configuration file to Apple and Google. The two technology companies will then use the file to set up systems that phone owners can subscribe to to determine if they are in close proximity to someone who has tested positive for the new coronavirus.
And in the case of iPhones, a new version of iOS released on Tuesday will alert users if the exposure notification system is available from local health authorities and allow users to set it up without downloading any new apps. On Android devices, users will also receive a prompt from the phone’s operating system, but they still need to download an app that creates automatically.
The two companies said: Maryland, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington DC will be the first American places to use the new system. The new system also works alongside the tools released by the two companies last May, which enable public health officials to create applications that allow iPhones and Android devices to use Bluetooth signals to detect approaching a person who has tested positive for the virus.
Six US states and about twenty countries have launched exposure notification apps based on Apple-Google technology in recent weeks without major obstacles. Applications are increasingly compatible with each other, allowing cross-border tracking. A few jurisdictions, such as Hawaii, are moving forward with separate tracking technology.
And some governments have praised the system, which could help them to test and isolate infected individuals more efficiently than simply asking infected people about whom they met so that infected people try to remember people, which increases the chance of forgetting some of them. However, some governments were not satisfied due to the rules set by Apple and Google, which limit their ability to collect data on users’ locations, phone numbers, and other details.