Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Apple, Google open up COVID-19 tracking technology to developers

San Francisco, Apr 29 (EFE).– Apple and Google on Wednesday opened up to certain software developers with links to health authorities in different parts of the world access to contact tracking technology databases on which they are working jointly to battle the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tech giants reported in a statement that the aim of the move is twofold: on one hand, to enable them to test their joint application programming interface (API) before its official launch in mid-May and, on the other, to obtain comments and evaluations that will allow them to improve the product.

The two firms surprised the tech world in early April by announcing an unprecedented alliance in an environment where great competition in the tech industry exists, revealing that they are working together on a project to use personal mobility data in the fight against the coronavirus.

The idea is to take advantage of the ubiquity of the iOS operating system for Apple mobile phones and Android for Google devices to collect and place at the disposal of health authorities around the world mobility and contact data among individuals that will allow experts to better track and forecast Covid-19 infections.

This is a plan that is already under way in Asian countries like China and South Korea but which poses serious doubts regarding maintaining the privacy of user information, something that Apple and Google say they have been able to deal with using Bluetooth and less invasive geolocation technology, as well as with the “voluntary” nature of the programs.

The alliance between the owners of the world’s two biggest mobile operating systems will have two elements: first, both countries in May will release an API that is compatible with both Android and iOS.

APIs are the computing interfaces to a software component or a system that define how other components or systems can use it. They define the kinds of calls or requests that can be made, how to make them, the data formats that should be used, the conventions to follow, and so on.

The new API that will come out in May, however, will allow fluid communication between Android and iOS with the aim of enabling the official apps created by different health authorities to be downloaded into iOS and Android and the information collected there to be added without regard for the original computer language of any given device.

Meanwhile, Apple and Google “in the coming months” will create a platform that will allow interactions and contacts between individuals to be followed via Bluetooth technology – which is present in most mobile telephones – and which should provide a more “robust” solution than that of the API.

Thus, for example, if a person comes into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus or who after the contact tests positive, he could receive an announcement on his telephone to that effect and quarantine himself until he determines if he has been infected.