As the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to expand worldwide, tech giants in the United States had announced a new system for the nation’s public health authorities to trace close contacts without the need to build an app.
The new system that is called Exposure Notifications Express, developed by Alphabet Inc’s Google and Apple Inc. This system allows public health officials to submit a small configuration file to Google and Apple, and these two companies will then use the file to set up systems that phone owners can opt in to.
Once phone owners opt into the system, they will be able to determine if they have been near someone who has tested COVID-19 positive.
For iPhones with the new iOS version (iOS 13.7) that was being released on Tuesday (1 September), it was announced that the Exposure Notifications system will be available to users without having to download an app.
However, the availability of this new system would depend on the phone users’ local public health authority.
“iOS 13.7 lets you opt in to the COVID-19 Exposure Notifications system without the need to download an app. System availability depends on support from your local public health authority.”
On the other hand, Android devices will also receive a prompt from the phone’s operating system, but Android users will be required to download an automatically generated app.
The Exposure Notifications system will be first available in Maryland, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington D.C., United States. It was also said to be able to work alongside tools that Google and Apple released back in May.
According to Reuters, it further enables public health officials to build apps that allow iPhones and Android devices to use Bluetooth signals to “detect proximity to a person who has tested positive”.
Despite the collaboration between the two tech giants, and other various tracking apps that had been made available in many countries, the effectiveness of these apps in helping to slow the COVID-19 spread remains a major question.
This is due to the fact that most governments are not tracking “detailed data” on app usage in the interest of user privacy.