Apple Inc. AAPL and Alphabet's GOOGL GOOG Google are teaming up to help trace contacts of COVID-19 positive smartphone users using Bluetooth technology while maintaining privacy.
On Friday, Apple and Google announced a joint project to launch a “comprehensive solution,” which will include application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system level-technology to carry out contact tracing.
The contact-tracing solution would help healthcare workers in the fight against COVID-19, as the disease spreads through people in close proximity.
According to a statement released by Apple, both companies will release APIs in May, to ensure interoperability on both iOS and Android platforms. A “broader” Bluetooth-based contact platform will follow, seeking to build the functionality on both mobile platforms.
In a joint statement, the tech giants said, “Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life.”
Why It Matters
Each phone will transmit a unique and anonymous code over Bluetooth. The contact-tracing system will register the phones in its vicinity in a log. Over the long term, all phones will build a log of smartphones they have exchanged this code with, according to the Verge.
Anyone testing positive for COVID-19 would be able to submit a positive diagnosis to a central database through their healthcare provider. The patient’s registered database contacts would then be alerted that they’d been exposed to the virus.
The system will be built into existing public health apps built by state-level health agencies. Eventually, the capability would be baked into the respective operating systems themselves.
Google and Apple have published details on how the contact-tracing works.
Participation in the contact-tracing program is voluntary. Users can turn off the tracing or skip participating by not downloading the relevant public health applications.
As of December 2019, Android and iOS combined have a 99% share of the global mobile operating system market share, according to Statista, a German online statistics portal.
On Thursday, Apple shares closed 0.72% higher at $267.99 in the regular session.
Alphabet class A shares traded 0.036% lower at $1,206.57, while the company’s class C shares traded 0.097% higher at $1,211.45 in the regular session.
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