Apple has released a new software tool that will allow public health authorities in countries around the world to launch their own contact-tracing apps for COVID-19 detection.
Apple has been working on the software with Google during the last two months, and after a few teething issues, it is finally ready to support the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.
Apple says that the Exposure Notification API will be introduced in iOS 13.5, a software update for iPhones that started rolling out on Thursday.
The API cannot work on its own and needs an accompanying app to implement ‘exposure logging’.
Screenshots of the latest update show a new system setting where users can turn on this logging.
When they do so, the iPhone will securely exchange random IDs via Bluetooth and enable a separate app to notify users if they have been exposed to the virus.
“Mobile devices can be used in an automated and scalable way to help determine who has been exposed to a person that later reports a positive diagnosis of COVID-19,” Apple said in a statement.
The new decentralised approach adopted by Apple and Google addresses a couple of the issues that were flagged during testing.
Apple usually restricts Bluetooth usage within third-party apps when they are open in the background.
People also raised concerns about security and privacy.
The new system locates contact-matching on a user’s device rather than storing data and information on a central server.
While 22 countries have already expressed an interest in testing the new systems with their apps, the UK is not one of them.
The Conservative government, like those in France and Norway, wants to use a centralised approach to contact tracing as it believes that this will deliver greater insights and more control over the risk model.
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