Smartphone apps are playing a big role in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic. These apps are being used to track infected people, issue self-quarantine guidelines, provide latest communication to the citizens and ease the burden on healthcare staff. Throughout the world, from South Korea to Poland, the apps have been downloaded by millions of people. European Union is planning to roll out its own app, and has issued guidelines for the same. Apple and Google, the two Silicon Valley tech giants, have joined hands for the development of an app that will assist healthcare organizations.
Technology has come to the rescue in diagnosing those affected, identifying hotspots and getting real-time updates. While there is an issue of data privacy at stake, most of the app developers are now trying to put mechanisms in place to safeguard user privacy. Have a look at some of the most popular smartphone apps to track Covid-19 outbreak.
TraceTogether is a popular smartphone app that can be downloaded by anyone with a Sinagpore mobile number and a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone. It is a contact tracing app that uses Bluetooth to track infected people and notify those who were in close proximity to them during the past 15 days. The app doesn’t collect data about GPS location or WiFI/mobile network. When two people using the app are close to each other, both phones will use Bluetooth to exchange a Temporary ID. This Temporary ID is generated by encrypting the User ID with a private key held by the Ministry of Health (MOH). It can only be decrypted by MOH, and does not reveal your identity or the other person’s identity. The app has been developed by Developed by the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) in collaboration with MOH, and it has become a prototype for many other contact tracing apps in other parts of the world.
Developed in collaboration with Stanford University, the app empowers people to protect themselves and their communities without the need of surrendering their privacy. It uses Bluetooth signals to detect users when they are in proximity to each other and alerts them anonymously if they were in contact with someone who has tested positive. A distinguishing feature of the app is that any third party, including the government won’t be able to track who was exposed by whom. It has been among the first apps to release an open-source protocol for privacy-preserving, decentralized Bluetooth contact tracing.
Launched by the Health Ministry of Israel, the app uses contact tracing to contain the spread of the deadly contagion. The app allows users to know if in the past 15 days they were close to anyone who has been diagnosed with the virus. Once a user installs the app, his movements are tracked using location technology and the information fetched is compared with the ministry data on the whereabouts of those who have been diagnosed. If it transpires that a particular user was indeed in proximity with an infected person, the app redirects the person to the health ministry website where he can register for self-quarantine.
The Corona DataSpende
This German smartwatch app monitors the spread of coronavirus by collecting crucial signs – pulse rate, body temperature, sleep patterns – from volunteers wearing a smartwatch or a fitness tracker. It checks whether they have developed any Covid-19 symptoms or not. The results are then portrayed on an online interactive map that makes it possible for health authorities to take stock of the situation and find out the hotspots.
Within just 13 days of its launch, Aarogya Setu has been downloaded by more than 50 million users, and has become the most downloaded app in the world to track Covid-19. The app has been developed by the Indian Ministry of Electronics and IT to notify users if they have crossed paths with someone who has been diagnosed positive. Tracking is done via Bluetooth and a location-generated graph that charts proximity with anyone infected.
Once the app is installed, the users are required to switch on their Bluetooth and Location sharing, and keep them on always for effective tracking. The app also has a self-testing function. A user has to answer a few questions, and if the responses indicate symptoms of coronavirus then the information is sent to the government servers. The app also provides self-quarantine instructions. Aarogya Setu is available in 11 languages on both Android and iOS platforms.
Covid Symptom Tracker
This app has been designed by doctors and researchers at the King’s College London and St. Thomas hospitals, in partnership with a private healthcare company called Zoe Global. The app studies the syptomps of the virus for advanced research and also helps track how it spreads. The scientists analyze high-risk areas in the UK, speed of virus spread, and the most vulnerable group, based on health conditions. The app is GDPR compliant and data is used only for healthcare research and not commercial purposes.
NHS smartphone app
The contact tracing app, currently being developed by the NHS( National Health Service), which is the publicly funded national healthcare system of England. The App is being designed at NHSX, the innovation unit of NHS, and would be rolled out anytime soon. British health secretary Matt Hannock has urged the public to download the app once it’s available. The app would keep a tab on people’s movements and notify those who come in close contact with those who have been infected. Experts suggest that by analysing the patterns of the virus spread and hotspots, the app would also help in relaxing lockdown. It would categorize details based on demography, household structures and mobility patterns and based on this, maximum number of people would be allowed to move freely.
Let’s Beat Covid-19
LetsBeatCOVID.net is designed to allow members of the public to complete a short survey about their health and exposure to COVID-19 in order that health services can save more lives. It has been developed by MedShr, an app used by over a million doctors in diagnostics. Public is asked to fill a short anonymous survey about themselves, and they are also allowed to key in information about their family members.
Developed by the Indonesian Communications and Information Ministry, along with the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Ministry, the app enables users to compile data related to the spread of COVID-19 in their communities and help boost the government’s efforts to track confirmed cases, as well as those suspected to be infected with the virus. It cross references data stored on mobile device through Bluetooth. When a user is in the vicinity of another user whose data has been uploaded to PeduliLindungi, the app enables an anonymous exchange of identities, according to its official website.
Poland has been one of the first Western countries to roll out a smartphone app that collects reams of personal information, including people’s location and digital photos, in its fight to combat the pandemic. In this app, people upload their selfies when asked by the officials, so that their exact location can be pinpointed. It has become mandatory for anyone who has developed coronavirus symptoms. The app translates to ‘Home Quarantine’ in English.