In May, Apple and Google released their ambitious COVID-19 contact-tracing technology, which lets government health agencies build smartphone apps to track the spread of the virus. These longtime rivals partnered to work together to create Bluetooth contact-tracing technology that public-health authorities could use to track the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
However, as time goes on and states start to reopen, the lack of adoption of this technology makes the two giant company to updates the Covid-19 alert system so as to increase adoption by allowing people to join the system even if a local health agency doesn’t have an app.
This app will also allow health officials to track and alert one another about coronavirus infections without having to build an app. Using this app means the smartphone keeps a record of the people the patient has come in close contact with and can automatically alert them once the patient tells the app that they have tested positive.
The new option, called exposure notifications express, will allow people to join Apple’s and Google’s coronavirus notifications without needing to download an app from their local health department. This, the two companies said, will help spread adoption without putting pressure on health officials, some of whom have told the tech companies they don’t have the resources to build an app.
According to Bloomberg, Apple Inc. said the ability to use contact tracing without an app will roll out to iPhones on Tuesday, while Google said Android devices will get this capability in a more limited form later this month.
The companies said this will increase the adoption of the system, which has begun to identify Covid-19 exposures. Although, it will still only work in regions where public health authorities offer apps. The technology has been slow to catch on in some countries.
Apple included the update in a test version of its iOS software last week. It became widely available on Tuesday with the release of iOS 13.7. The capability, known as Exposure Notifications Express, will also work on Android devices running version 6.0 and later.
While iOS users won’t have to install an app, Android device owners will be prompted to install a public health app generated by Google information provided by local health authorities. That skips a step where a public health organization needs to fully develop their own app.
The technology giants said 25 U.S. states, territories and Washington D.C. are exploring exposure notification systems, which would cover more than 55% of the U.S. population. Just six states have launched the system so far and it has been rolled out in 20 countries and regions.
“As the next step in our work with public health authorities on Exposure Notifications, we are making it easier and faster for them to use the Exposure Notifications System without the need for them to build and maintain an app,” the companies said in a statement.
Virginia, Washington D.C., Nevada and Maryland will be the first to roll out contact tracing without the need for an app. More states will add support later this year, the companies said.
Without an app, the system is maintained inside of the Settings apps on Apple and Android devices. Like with the initial approach, it uses Bluetooth to determine how close and for how long a user is from another person. If a user inputs into their device that they have tested positive for Covid-19, a person with a phone that met the threshold based on time and distance will be notified of possible exposure.
Even with this updates this technology is limited to some country, likewise some country have already started developing contact-tracing apps that do not use Apple and Google tech.