Global technology giants, Google and Apple, have announced their collaboration to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) through Bluetooth technology.
In line with common consumer concerns, user privacy and security remain central to the product’s design. The tech giants’ contribution joins efforts by other software developers who are crafting technical tools to help combat the coronavirus and save lives.
Since the coronavirus can be transmitted through close proximity, public health organisations 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 undertaking important work to develop opt-in contact tracing technology.
Apple and Google will launch a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology. These will assist in enabling contact tracing, and, given the urgent need, will be implemented in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy.
In May, both companies will release APIs enabling Android and iOS device interoperability using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.
In the coming months, Apple and Google 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. It would also enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities.
Privacy, transparency, and consent are of particular importance in this effort, with the two companies looking to building functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders.
In a joint statement, the two tech giants said, “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.”