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Apple and Google team up to develop COVID-19 contact tracing platform

As the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, Apple and Google have announced a collaboration that will help to reduce the spread of COVID-19 with the use of technology. The tech giants will be jointly developing a contact tracing platform that uses Bluetooth technology and this will help governments and health agencies worldwide.

Contact tracing has been identified by public health officials as a valuable tool in containing COVID-19 as the disease can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals. In Singapore, the Ministry of Health and GovTech had recently introduced TraceTogether, an contact tracing app that uses Bluetooth.

Both Apple and Google will be releasing a comprehensive solution to enable contact tracing and this will include APIs and system-level technology. The APIs is expected to be released in May which will enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. The official apps will be available on both Apple AppStore and Google PlayStore.

In the next few months, Apple and Google will be enabling a broader Bluetooth-based COVID-19 contact tracing platform by building its functionality into the underlying platforms. The statement added that this is a more robust solution than an API and it will allow more individuals to participate and enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities. As usual, privacy, transparency and consent will be of utmost importance in the effort. The work will be published publically for others to analyse.

Both Apple and Google have published a draft technical documentation on the contact traffic platform here.

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Alexander Wong