Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc.’s Google said on Friday that they will work together to create contact tracking technology that aims to slow down the spread of the corona virus by enabling users to sign up for a system that catalogs other phones they’ve had around.
The two Silicon Valley companies are making the world’s dominant smartphone operating systems for iPhones and Android devices. They will collaborate on technology that will allow mobile devices to exchange information via Bluetooth connections to alert people when they have been around someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, the sometimes deadly respiratory disease associated with the new coronavirus.
The technology will be available for the first time in mid-May as software tools available to contact tracking apps approved by public health authorities. However, Apple and Google also plan to build tracking technology directly into their underlying operating systems in the coming months, so users won’t have to download apps to start logging phones nearby. The companies said the technology will not track users ‘location or identity, but instead will only record data about when users’ phones have been close to each other, decrypting data on the user’s phone instead from the servers of the companies. GPS location data is not part of the effort, the companies said.
Governments around the world are struggling to develop or evaluate software designed to improve the normally labor-intensive contact-finding process, with health officials going to recent contacts of an infected person and asking them to quarantine or have themselves tested. Several health technology experts have said that the involvement of Apple and Google would give a huge boost to their efforts as contact tracing apps from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others struggled to get their apps running on competing operating systems.
(This story has not been edited by staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)