Exposure notification; trace, contact, isolate; is a major component of re-opening America. On April 10th Apple and Google announced they would be working together on APIs in the fight against COVID-19 spread. The two leading smartphone OS manufacturers would combine to accelerate the use of smartphones in contact tracing. This week, Switzerland launched the first app based on this technology. The key feature uses Bluetooth to measure proximity and duration between smartphones. At a later date if either party test positive, the other(s) receive notification.
A common refrain during #NYSonPAUSE is the use of 100 year old techniques at fighting pandemics: social distancing. This exposure notification marks the first significant technological advance during this crisis. Of course, it is not without its detractors. The new refrain is that the government, or worse, advertisers, will now use this to secretly track us.
Many safeguards made their way into the APIs, in some cases reducing their effectiveness. For example, the non-negotiable feature was that the exposure metrics could not be stored in a centralized database. The BBC article, link above, clearly depicts how centralization impacts app usage.
Contact tracing is a cornerstone of #NYForward. Once communities are able to notify the exposure to the virus at a mass scale, smart medical practices can be put into place. Namely, isolate contagious individuals and prevent outbreaks. New Rochelle used this containment zone strategy, with the jury still being out on its success.
I’m looking forward to the public health solutions that will be launching soon. Both types, ones using this set of APIs and those based on competing innovations. Let’s bring the fight against the spread into this century.
Stay healthy and keep streaming!