Apple launches Mobility Tool to track social distancing

Apple has launched a new ‘Covid-19 Mobility Tool’ that uses data from Apple Maps to show how closely people are adhering to social distancing when they are out and about.

In a statement, Apple said that the tool is able to count the amount of requests for directions in its web mapping service and offer data related to the behaviour of the general public in graph form for different regions.

For New York City, for example, the tool shows a steep drop-off in driving (-69%), walking (-80%) and transit (-89%) since the beginning of March.

While the information is useful for the general public, it is primarily designed for governments and healthcare professionals, who will be able to see whether people are following the stringent guidelines central to lockdowns across Europe and the US.

Apple allayed security concerns by confirming that the data is not tied to a person’s Apple ID, so no third party will be able to see what a certain individual is doing on any given day.

The information, part of Apple’s recent drive to help with the outbreak of the coronavirus, which included the production of face shields for health workers, will be updated daily.

In a statement, Apple said that different data sets are compared to come up with the changes in volume for cities around the world, so the information won’t just be limited to the US.

It added: “Data availability in a particular city, country, or region is subject to a number of factors, including minimum thresholds for direction requests made per day.”

Tech giant Google has also been using the trends feature in its Maps app to highlight the effectiveness of social distancing.

Google is tracking different locations, including grocery stores and parks, to provide a more complete picture of the lockdown.

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About the author


I've been a passionate evangelist for Apple and the Macintosh throughout my working life, my first love was a Quadra 605 working with a small creative agency in the south of Norfolk UK in the mid 1990's, I later progressed to other roles in other Macintosh dominated industries, first as a Senior graphic designer at a small printing company and then a production manager at Guardian Media Group. As the publishing and printing sector wained I moved into Internet Marketing and in 2006 co-founded which grew to become one the top 200 visited sites in the US (according to Quantcast), at its peak receiving over 15 million visits per month. For the last ten years I have worked as an Affiliate and Consultant to many different business and start ups, my key skill set being online marketing, on page monetisation, landing page optimisation and traffic generation, if you would like to hire me or discuss your current project please reach out to me here.

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