The fight against coronavirus requires collective action, and one such collective effort is being made by Sundar Pichai and Tim Cook, CEOs of Google and Apple respectively. Usually, at loggerheads with one another, the two tech giants have decided to join hands to trace COVID-19 cases. Here’s all we know about it. By Bayar Jain
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The need for collective action – from a safe distance – is more important now than ever before. Taking a cue from this urgency, technology giants Apple and Google, otherwise, rivals, have come together to help trace COVID-19 patients. Together, they will be developing contacts with tracker solutions using Bluetooth technology. This, once developed, will allow governments and health agencies to further contain the spread of the virus. Currently, the only means of flattening the curve is by maintaining social distancing and isolating.
Users will be able to opt into a system that tracks their location and proximity to others via Bluetooth technology. The data thus collected will initially be made accessible only to official apps of public health authorities. If a user reports being diagnosed with the virus, the system will alert all those who have been in close contact with the infected patient within a certain time period. Additionally, they will also be given advice from local health authorities on what the next course of action should be to minimise spread, including self-quarantine. The app is slated to be available on Android and iOS platforms by mid-May using apps from public health authorities. In the months after that, the functionality will be built into the companies’ respective operating systems, making it an option immediately available to everyone with smartphones.
A statement released by both the companies emphasises the importance of privacy for the software. “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 analyse,” the statement says.