This Contact Tracing App Uses Bluetooth Technology To Detect Exposure to COVID-19

We take our phones with us just about everywhere. This contract tracing app is counting on that to keep users informed of exposure to COVID-19.

What Happened? 

States have begun deploying contact tracing apps utilizing technology developed in partnership by Apple and Google. Once users download and install the app, it will measure their proximity to other users with Bluetooth signals from their phones. Therefore, the app does not disclose users’ geographic location since distance to other users is the defining metric. 

When someone using the app tests positive for COVID-19, a stored list of other users they came in contact with will be notified, whether they’re a stranger they waited behind at checkout or a friend they see regularly. 

Other apps using this technology include:

  • GuideSafe - Currently open to university students with plans to expand statewide
  • COVIDwise - Eligible for Virginia residents, who can download it on the app store or google play. 

Why it Matters:

Faster Contact Tracing:

The United States has the most COVID-19 cases in the world. Contact tracing has largely been handled by follow-up calls to identify who an infected person has come in contact with in the past fourteen days. Participation is not compulsory, but estimates from the U.K. show that 77.6% of people shared details of recent contacts. 

A mobile app could help streamline this process. For instance, the Virginia Department of Health sends out a unique six-digit PIN when someone tests positive to be entered into the app (if they have it) to notify all recent contacts. 

Personal Information and Data is Protected

Apps using this technology do not need to collect personal or location-based information to be effective. Apple and Google expect to disable the system once it is no longer needed.