Google and Apple have a cross-platform contact tracing solution in the works, and the two companies have now given an early version to certain developers for testing.
Google, Apple contact tracing early version given to select developers
The early version of the contact tracing solution comes with a test code. The test code lets developers see how the solution will work. The fortunate developers are working with public health authorities. Google and Apple say that only health authorities will have access to the information. The technology will stop tracking once the pandemic dies out.
Why is the test code release for Google and Apple's contact tracing technology important?
It hasn't been all that long ago since Google and Apple announced their partnership to create a tool to aid the COVID-19 relief effort. Now, with a test code for developers and health authorities, the new solution is one step closer to public availability.
Google and Apple's upcoming solution will require two phases. First, the two companies will release the new solution as an update to their operating systems, Android (Google) and iOS (Apple).
Next, developers must write apps that embrace the new contact-tracing technology. Once developers publish apps, they will go public in their respective app stores.
iOS users will soon have access to them as they would any game or utility app. The new solution could be available in Google Play (Android) and the App Store (iOS) as early as mid-May.
The new contact tracing solution will utilize Bluetooth. It will provide random, constantly changing keys for users and contacts. A person can report he or she is sick with COVID-19.
After a report, users who have come in contact with the sick person will receive an exposure notification. The solution will maintain privacy, lack location data, and never give away names or contact information.
From the sound of it alone, the new cross-platform solution will also be more privacy-friendly than Beijing's Close Contact Detector app. Close Contact Detector (CCD) allows Chinese citizens to input their governmental ID to discover if they're at risk. CCD doesn't need input from citizens themselves to reveal if a person is at risk for a disease. Just how CCD knows if someone has disease exposure remains a mystery.
What name are Google and Apple giving to this solution?
The new contact tracing solution now has the name "notification exposure." The new name places emphasis upon exposure and the word "notification" is an easy way to remind users that they will receive notification of exposure and risk in the event they cross paths with an infected individual.
"Contact tracing" is a generic name for the technology and seems to be easy to remember, but it could refer to a centralized solution (such as Google and Apple's efforts) or to the efforts of individual persons who are simply curious about the people they encounter on an ordinary basis. In other words, "contact tracing" doesn't highlight the emergency nature the world finds itself in currently.
But there may just be a reason behind the generic name "exposure notification" for Google and Apple's contact tracing. It may stick around as a valuable technology for future diseases and pandemics.
While Google and Apple's solution will have mass appeal, no doubt, the United Kingdom will not use it and will create a contact tracer of its own.