COVID-19 Contact Tracking App

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A global pandemic like COVID-19 has hampered the sector of information technology, development among many others. However, even in the middle of a dire situation, where the whole world is at a standstill, along with doctors, nurses, and many others, even information technologists, developers are putting all their efforts in fighting against the common enemy.

It is indeed true that right now, we need people from all professions to put cent percent of their work in the development and the upgrade of the society as a whole. An initiative taken by two technical giants is our dose of information today.

Perhaps Google and Apple are considered as the top-notch tech giants today with constant rivalry ranging in a wide spectrum of development and technological advancement. However, in a pandemic situation as such, where a common enemy like Coronavirus has affected people in a worldwide manner – the tech giants have come together to fight the battle.

Perhaps for the umpteenth time we are faced against a threatening monster whose solution can be aided by the tech giants. Technology has once again come together to fight against a worldwide pandemic.

A long-waited technology in the context of Contact Tracking apps has finally been launched on Android and iPhone previous week. As a matter of fact, this moment has been marked as ‘watershed moment’ as it was long-awaited indeed.

Nomenclature of the App

The app was originally called ‘Contract Tracking’, but the name was changed by the companies after it was agreed upon that the app works alongside human contact rather than against it. It neither tracks you nor your phone contact.

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Working of the App

The working of the App can be described as follows. Understanding the details of the working gives us a better insight into the App as a whole. Thus, detailed working can be briefly explained.

  1. The Exposure Notification feature provides notification as soon as a person comes in contact with an infected person.
  2. The API will help the app in running a Bluetooth technology in the background, which in turn will log users who are in physical proximity, for at least five minutes.
  3. If a user tests positive, he or she can update their status as positive, on the app.
  4. The app will then anonymously update the people who have had come in contact with this user who has been tested positive.
  5. The matches are made by user’s devices regularly sending out a beacon via Bluetooth that includes an identifier.
  6. The identifier is basically a string of random numbers that are not tied to any user’s identity.
  7. Hence, the identifier keeps on changing constantly.
  8. Other phones constantly keep on listening for these beacons as well as broadcasts their own beacons.
  9. If there is a match between the beacons that are stored in the device and the beacons that are stored in the list of Google and Apple’s record of ‘Positive Diagnosis’, then a user will be sent an alert. This is a very valid method of tracking the spread of the disease.

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Advantages of the App

The advantages of the App developed can be listed down as follows:

  1. The app solves many other problems that the previous app with Bluetooth possessed.
  2. With this app, the battery of the phone is not insanely consumed unlike previously developed apps.
  3. It works in a cross-platform environment – that is Android and iPhones can detect each other and across regional borders, too.
  4.  The matches are independent of central servers – that is – matches between two phones are done based on devices rather than that of a centralized server.
  5. This stands in contrast with the NHS app, which works on a centralized model.
  6. If segregated approaches to tracing are provided then communication between countries can be made in a much efficient manner.

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Disadvantages of the App

The disadvantages of the App can be listed down as follows. Though the app acts as a privacy saver these issues make it difficult to implement on some issues.

  1. The lack of information that serves as a privacy betterment also acts as a barrier in the detection of the virus.
  2. The database of information on the people who have been affected by the virus will definitely provide a great statistic on the spread of the virus.
  3. GPS data is also needed in order to track the distance.
  4. It has been also argued by developers that the phones operating without the API are absolutely limited to listening for Bluetooth signals once every five minutes when they are not in use.
  5. The users operating without the API may thus, miss some events.
  6. Ryan Calo, a law professor has concerns about the effectiveness of the app in case too many people get the notification to be quarantined. This is absolutely a valid concern.
  7. Calo also mentioned that the app could be used as a means of widespread hiring, testing of an army of human contact tracers.

The Evolvement of the App

The app can be evolved on a huge basis on the basis of certain criteria. The criteria are well defined and can be used in the flourishment of the app.

  1. The App will only evolve if a vast amount of population uses it.
  2. Once a limit of the population is reached the app will be used at its best – that is – the effort to track the spread of the virus will become less effective.
  3. As a matter of fact, 60 percent of the population using this App is one of the optimal situations for tracking – as per some experts.
  4. Before participation in the official App, for the purposes of testing, Google and Apple will update the App and allow people to participate in the testing of the App.
  5. The UK can also invariably ditch its centralized model using this architecture. The advantages of the decentralized model are definitely one step ahead of all the centralized model built so far.

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