After a false start based on poor software design, mobile apps for contact tracing are relaunching around the world with a privacy-first approach, and there is early promise out of Europe that these apps could make a difference in the war against COVID-19.
In Ireland, Germany, and Switzerland, the first contact tracing apps based on Google and Apple’s Exposure Notification System (GAEN) have been publicly available for several weeks. The apps are intended to help bolster the manual contract tracing efforts made by public health authorities, using smartphone technology in an ingenious way that was never previously considered. By turning phones’ Bluetooth sensors into proximity radars, it’s possible to detect and log when two users of the app come into contact without physical distancing. When a user of the system becomes infected with COVID-19, all the other users that encountered that individual are notified. After that, they can seek testing and self-isolate to prevent spreading the virus.
Brian Jackson, research director at Info-Tech Research Group, shares his perspective in this article: