Apple and Google's Coronavirus-tracing Platform Will Alert Users If They've Encountered Someone Infected

They're developing the system that will be provided to app-developers.

iPhone displaying Google Chrome search bar
Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty

Two of the largest tech companies in the world are creating a platform to track the spread of coronavirus using cellphones around the world.

Earlier this month, Apple and Google announced they'll be working together on a software to trace COVID-19 and will release a new building block of their project on Tuesday, according to The BBC. This technology will be released to app-developers to track cases around the world.

Already, when a person is confirmed to have coronavirus, health officials work to trace the person’s path, including whom they may have come in contact with while infected. The process, known as “contact tracing,” is the basic premise of the technology coming from Apple and Google.

Neither tech giant will release a specific coronavirus-tracking app themselves but users will have to download a an app to take part in the system.

“They’re handling the plumbing and guaranteeing the privacy and security of the system, but leaving the building of the actual apps that use it to others,” The Verge reported.

The system would rely on bluetooth contact between cell phones. When two people — registered in their system — are near each other, their phones would hand off anonymous “identification keys” and log a record of their close contact. If one of these people were later confirmed to have contracted coronavirus, the app would alert everyone with whom their phone had made contact, prompting them to self-isolate for two weeks.

It’s likely that only licensed healthcare professionals will be able to log confirmed cases of COVID-19. Privacy issues remain an ongoing concern in the development of the system.

Germany confirmed they are working with Google and Apple to release the software in their country, ditching another app developed by the government over its privacy issues. "Our goal is for the tracing app to be ready for use very soon and with strong acceptance from the public and civil society," German Health Minister Jens Spahn said in a statement, according to The Local Germany.

And the UK’s National Health Service confirmed in a blog post that it is also working with Apple and Google to develop their own app.

"Technology has the potential to save lives and help us deal with the COVID-19 pandemic," the NHS said. "We believe this could be important in helping the country return to normality and beating coronavirus."

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles