After concerns from many tech departments about the limitations of Bluetooth technology in tracing COVID-19 patients, Apple and Google have finally released a response. Both companies have explained the function of the application in detail and here is how it will operate according to two tech experts, Russell Brandom and Adi Robertson.
“The new system, which is laid out in a series of documents and white papers, would use short-range Bluetooth communications to establish a voluntary contact-tracing network, keeping extensive data on phones that have been in close proximity with each other. Official apps from public health authorities will get access to this data, and users who download them can report if they’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19. The system will also alert people who download them to whether they were in close contact with an infected person.”
They further elaborated that “Apple and Google will introduce a pair of iOS and Android APIs in mid-May and make sure these health authorities’ apps can implement them. During this phase, users will still have to download an app to participate in contact-tracing, which could limit adoption. But in the months after the API is complete, the companies will work on building tracing functionality into the underlying operating system, as an option immediately available to everyone with an iOS or Android phone.”
Source; The Verge
For many weeks now, countries have come together to brainstorm ideas regarding the control of this pandemic. So it is good to see that corporations like Apple and Google that can actually make a difference are stepping forward to use their influence for good.
Still, health facilities have their own reservations about the application and its effectiveness. Even if you forget about the privacy aspect for a while, the first problem that arises is getting the people to download the application. The mistrust among the public is huge, especially after seeing the governments fall short on their expectations. So practically, this would prove to be a challenge
Secondly, Bluetooth signals are quite unreliable so the result would not be 100% accurate. Finally, the third and the most important issue is that if we start using the application, public health agencies will reduce the recruitment of people for contact tracing which is much more effective than any smartphone application. As a result, we might see a surge in the cases.
So even though we appreciate Apple and Google for taking such a measure, it is important to keep our expectations low as the possibility of this app being a success is quite low.