As governments and health authorities across the world are working together to find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, software developers are contributing by crafting technical tools to help combat the virus and save lives. In this spirit of collaboration, Google and Apple teamed up to develop a system for tracking the spread of the novel coronavirus, allowing users to share data through Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmissions and approved apps from health organizations. The system will help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design, the companies said.
Since COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals, public health officials have identified contact tracing as a valuable tool to help contain its spread. A number of leading public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology. To further this cause, Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing. Given the urgent need, the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy, Apple and Google said.
Apple and Google announced plans to launch APIs that will enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices by way of official apps from public health authorities. The companies said these official apps will be available for users to download from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store starting in May.
In the coming months, the two companies will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms. This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities.
“Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze,” Apple and Google said.
“All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems. Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life.”