Google Working On COVID-19 Wearable Exposure Notifications Support

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A new Google Play Services APK teardown report by XDA Developers confirms that Google is working on adding Wearable Exposure Notification support to the app.

Back in August, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced that it is working on a new BLE specification. This is developed to enable COVID-19 contact tracing on wearables.

Moreover, a draft of this new Wearable Exposure Notification Service (WENS) was published last month. However, it is yet to see the light of the day.

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But the new strings found during the APK teardown of Google Play Services show that Google is already in the advanced stage. And may soon add COVID-19 Wearable Exposure Notification support to the app.

FYI, to develop the BLE specification, over 130 Bluetooth member companies came together to form the Bluetooth SIG Exposure Notification Working Group (ENWG).

New strings of codes in the latest Google Play Services v20.50.14 reveal the process of this new feature. These codes highlight how exactly this new Wearable Exposure Notification will work.

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Note that not all the features highlighted or spotted by APK teardown are guaranteed to materialize in a future release.

Wearable Exposure Notification support will notify if you've been near a COVID-19 positive person

To recall, the draft highlighted this new Bluetooth specification. As noted in the draft, "a non-Internet-connected wearable device to operate in a manner complementary with one or more deployed Client-based Exposure Notification Systems (ENSs), therefore enabling significantly more individuals to participate in an ENS."

Now, the new strings of codes reveal a few details on how this feature will work. Firstly, below are the lines of code for your reference:

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<string name="exposure_notification_pair">Pair</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_pair_fail_dialog">Pair failed! Please try again.</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_pair_new_device">Pair new device</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_paired_devices">Paired devices</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_pairing">Pairing…</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_wearable_available_devices">Available devices</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_wearable_device_list">Get notified on paired devices</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_wearable_device_name">Device name</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_wearable_pair_dialog_message">"Your phone will use this device to securely collect and share random IDs with other devices that are nearby.
You can be notified if you’ve been near someone who reported having COVID-19.
The date, duration, and signal strength associated with an exposure will be shared with the app.
"</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_wearable_pair_dialog_title">Pair %s for COVID-19 Exposure Notification?</string>

If you look closely at the aforementioned strings, it indicates a few dialogues that shed light on the pairing process. This will help users connect their wearable devices to get exposure notifications.

After connecting a compatible wearable to your phone, a dialog will appear stating, "Your phone will use this device to securely collect and share random IDs with other devices that are nearby. You can be notified if you've been near someone who reported having COVID-19. The date, duration, and signal strength associated with an exposure will be shared with the app."

Note that this Wearable Exposure Notification feature was spotted on the latest version of the Google Play Services app. But there is no clarity on when Google plans to bring this new feature for users.

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