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Apple, Google launch COVID-19 exposure notifications in phones for contact tracing

The technology will assist health authorities in carrying out contact tracing without having to build an app.

American Technology giants, Alphabet Inc’s Google, and Apple Inc, on Tuesday announced a new system that would enable public health authorities to use smartphones to help in contact tracing. This new system will assist health authorities in carrying out contact tracing without having to build an app.

The innovation, which is called Exposure Notifications Express, will allow public health officials to submit a small configuration file to Apple and Google. Both tech firms will then use the file to set up systems that phone owners can apply to determine if they have been near someone who has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

For the iPhones, a new version of the iOS operating system released on Tuesday that would alert users of an exposure notification system from local health authorities is available, and allows users to set it up without downloading any new app. On Android devices, users will also get a prompt from their phones’ operating systems, though they will still have to download an automatically generated app.

The Exposure Notification Express also works closely with tools released by the two technology companies in May that enable public health officials to build apps that allow iPhones and Android devices to use Bluetooth signals to detect proximity to a person who has tested positive.

About 24 countries and 6 states in the United States have launched the exposure notification apps based on the Apple-Google technology in recent weeks without major hitches.

However, it is yet to be determined how effective the exposure notification apps will be in helping to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease. Most governments are not tracking detailed data on app usage in the interest of user privacy.

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