Google and Apple team up on mobile-based solutions to fight COVID-19

With over 100,000 deaths as of Good Friday 2020, and a further over 1.6 million confirmed infections, the novel Coronavirus that is responsible for the COVID-19 disease is spreading faster. Having ground the world almost to a halt, the trail of destruction it leaves in its wake was unimaginable just a few weeks ago.

As such, limiting its spread and minimizing any further impact by the disease is of paramount importance not only to governments looking after their citizens but also private entities that have also been worst hit by the pandemic – some to the point of seeking bailouts from taxpayers in their respective countries.

To this end, Google and Apple, who, combined, account for nearly the entirety of the world’s smartphone market, have come together to do something to help.

A joint statement notes that the two technology powerhouses are “launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing.”

“Google and Apple are announcing a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design,” the statement reads.

The two companies will be rolling out the said solution in two phases.

Phase 1, which will see the two companies release “APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities” [details], will be done next month.

Phase 2, which is being fronted as the more robust solution, will include the incorporation of Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform in both Android and iOS [details]. It will be accomplished in another few months.

Countries such as China have been using contact-tracing solutions to limit the spread of the virus.

According to news reports, the Kenyan government has roped in mobile network operators to assist it with efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 by tracking persons suspected to have been infected.

Such moves have brought to fore questions about privacy violations and the balance between the need to protect the public and the intrusion occasioned by such measures. That is something that Apple and Google hope to avoid by making their solutions available on an opt-in basis. “Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort..,” they add in their statement.

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