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Apple, Google Develop Bluetooth Solution to Track COVID-19

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May 4, 2020—Google and Apple announced a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus earlier this month, according to an Apple press release.

Contact tracing is seen as a valuable tool to help track the spread of the coronavirus because it does not require close proximity to affected individuals. Apple and Google's solution will use application programming interfaces (APIs)  and operating system-level technology.

For repairers, think of it this way. A repairer is likely worried about which customers have had the coronavirus or have come in contact with the coronavirus, says Steven Schillinger, consultant with the Government Regulatory Compliance, an organization of consultants working with grants from the government to advise on compliance, regulations and permits for industries like the automotive industry and aircraft industry. 

Schillinger says that if the repairer chooses to opt in to this app and the customer does as well, he sees it as potentially easing some of these concerns. The repair shop might simply need to take a step of asking the customer to download the app once it has launched.

How the solution works:

Users will be asked to opt in to the project. Bluetooth will track potential exposures to confirmed cases of COVID-19. Smartphones will record instances in which they have been close to other phones for an extended period of time without recording location data, according to a report by The Verge  When a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, the API will allow public health agencies to quickly inform other people who may have been in contact with the patient, based on the data stored on their phone. Information about patients’ identities or locations is not shared with Apple or Google.

Apple and Google will release sample code on Friday that’s intended to show developers how to build apps using the system.

How the technology works:

The companies are planning on using Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) as the core of the system, according to an earlier report by The Verge.

Bluetooth LE uses shorter bursts of connectivity that uses less power than a traditional Bluetooth connection. It is also supported by nearly every single smartphone on the market. 

One flaw of the technology is that it can find the rough area of an object but not the exact physical location. This limitation could be advantageous for warning about virus exposure, according to the report. The virus cannot travel through walls so the fact that Bluetooth operates best in open-air situations means it could help notify users when they're at risk.

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