Turns out, not just medical and civil workers are contributing to the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Software developers from Apple and Google are crafting technical tools to help combat the virus and save lives. How are they doing it? By developing APIs or Application Programming Interface. Not just Apple and Google, many developers around the world are working toward the same goal- a healthier world. Health departments of many nations have developed contact-tracing apps for their citizens. In this blog, you will read about what is these apps do and which are the best contact tracing apps developed by different nations.
- What Is Contact Tracing?
- How Do Contact Tracing Apps Work?
- Best Contact Tracing Apps
It is a new world, a new era.
COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world we used to live in. We go out only if it is really necessary. Every time we need to go out of the house, we return to the house worrying about contracting the Coronavirus. What if we had unknowingly come in contact if some infected people? This fear is reasonable and natural.
Moreover, almost every nation is going through a similar experience. They are making every possible attempt to slow down the spread of the virus, from announcing lockdowns to taking the help of technology. The Public Health Authorities of many countries have collaborated with the mobile app company to develop contact tracing apps.
Google And Apple Collaboration
Google and Apple have collaborated to develop contact tracing API which is now called exposure notification API. They released the first version to select app developers associated with public health authorities (PHAs) around the world.
These apps help the authorities as well as the citizens to keep their health in check. If Google and Apple are doing something together, it must be important, don’t you think? Let’s see what these apps do and how they work.
What Is Contact Tracing?
Even with people following social distancing, the chances of contracting the virus are still there. As we see on the news and social media, more and more coronavirus cases are added each day.
According to the CDC, in manual contact tracing, public health staff work with a patient to help them recall everyone with whom they have had close contact during the timeframe while they may have been infectious. Manually carrying out such a task for a disease like COVID-19 is not plausible.
This is the reason most Governments have devised contact-tracing apps to make the procedure less cumbersome and rapid.
How Do Contact Tracing Apps Work?
Contact tracing apps automate the laborious manual process of tracing back people who might have come in contact with an infected person. This is how they work:
- The app uses Bluetooth® Low Energy and GPS navigation.
- Once someone installs the app, it will start logging the distance between the phone and other phones nearby that also have the app installed.
- The app stores the log of GPS location data and other people that have come in contact with each other. This log is anonymous to maintain privacy.
- If someone tests positive or has symptoms of COVID-19, they need to inform it in the app.
- This will trigger an anonymous alert to those other app users with whom this person came into significant contact over the previous few days.
Whenever someone installs such apps, they have a genuine fear of losing their privacy. Doubts about getting data leaked or stolen by a third party are reasonable privacy concerns. This where the role of a government comes in.
Each nation develops its own app without sharing any of its Public Health information with any other country. The database is also kept anonymous for safety. This is known as ‘Data Localization’.
Here is a video that will tell you what digital contact tracing is and why security is important.
Let’s now check out a few of the best contact-tracing apps developed by various nations.
Best Contact Tracing Apps
COVID Safe- Australia
Designed and developed by the Australian Department of Health COVID Safe is a digital contact tracing app for the people of Australia.
This app uses Bluetooth® technology to detect the location of any person who has downloaded this app on their cell phone. It claims to contact the person quicker if they have contacted a potential or confirmed patient diagnosed with COVID-19.
The app was first released on 26 April 2020. Over a million Australians have already downloaded this app. This app is based on the BlueTrace protocol which was developed by the Singaporean Government. The app also claims to be safe and promises users complete control of their information.
- User-identity is safeguarded
- Control of information to the users
- Easy to install and log in
- Uses up too much battery
- Issues while entering a phone number
- Loses Bluetooth connectivity
HaMagen is Hebrew for The Shield. Just like the name, the app does shield the people of Israel from the Coronavirus. The app works in a very simple manner. It keeps a log of people’s location and cross-checks the GPS history of one phone with historical geographic data of COVID-19 positive patients from the Ministry of Health.
The app was developed by the Ministry of Health in Israel on the basis of open-source code. The open-source code, on one hand, achieves transparency and on the other hand, makes it possible for programmers in Israel and around the world to develop and support this effort.
- User’s GPS data is not sent to any third party people
- Cross-referencing of location is secure
- The app has open-source code
- Auto-scaling and rotation of screen is not allowed
- English GUI is sometimes unresponsive
- Font size issues in some devices
TraceTogther is one of the first contact tracer apps to be launched into the market. It is developed by the Ministry of Health and Government Technology Agency (GovTech), in support of SGUnited. The digital contact tracing app traces the contacts of COVID infected person even if they’re strangers. They believe in trace together, healthy together.
The Government Digital Services team at Government Technology Agency of Singapore. developed BlueTrace protocol. TraceTogether is built on the same protocol. The app is available for Android and iPhone operating systems.
- User-friendly interface
- Doesn’t intrude privacy
- Information is encrypted and stored only on your phone
- Not compatible with older phones
- Utilizes a good chunk of battery power
- iPhone users may have installation issues
Arogya Setu is developed by the Government of India for Indian citizens. The app connects essential health workers with the people of India in the fight against COVID-19. The App is aimed at augmenting the initiatives of the Government of India like the contact tracing system. Department of Health is proactively reaching out and informing the people about risks, best practices, and relevant advisories pertaining to the containment of COVID-19.
The app also uses GPS and Bluetooth technology just like other apps on the list and helps in the tracing efforts that the health agencies. It collects health data and sends out phone alerts if a person has got in touch with an infected individual.
- The app gives information about the risk status of each individual
- It doesn’t take up too much space
- It also provides health tips and advisory notices
- The contract-tracing section is too small
- RAM management kills the app at times in some Android phones
- GPS tracking consumes a lot of power
The government of Malaysia developed MySejahtera application to assist in managing the COVID-19 outbreaks in the country. Users can perform health self-assessment on themselves and their family members.
The app also monitors their health progress throughout the pandemic. Also, MySejahtera enables the Ministry of Health (MOH) to monitor users’ health conditions in real-time. This helps in taking immediate action in providing the treatments required.
- The developer updates it regularly, fixing bugs.
- It doesn’t take up too much space
- It provides details about the nearest health centers
- The contract-tracing feature could be improved
- UI is a bit confusing
- GPS tracking consumes a lot of power
HSE or Health Service Executives in Ireland launched COVID Tracker on July 6th, 2020. Within just 2 days, the app was downloaded more than 1 million times. The app is available for Android as well as iOS users in Ireland.
The best part about the app is that the users can choose to share or hide any information they give access to. The app has three functions:
- Contact tracing: Identifies people who were in close contact with someone who has been tested positive for COVID-19
- COVID check-in: Users can track how they feel each day and find out if they have symptoms of coronavirus. Further, they also get advice on what to do.
- Updates and information: Users can check the latest facts and figures about coronavirus in Ireland
- Easy to use and simple interface
- Data privacy is totally secured
- Anonymously warn others if you get the virus
- People below 16 years cannot use the app
- Takes up too much space
- Bluetooth and location need to be kept on
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Let’s check out some of the commonly asked questions.
Are contact-tracing apps safe?
There are a lot of doubts and concerns about data safety that people are raising. Many government agencies have made sure that the app doesn’t require any other information other than location and Bluetooth access. However, in order to safeguard your data while using the app, you must check the permissions required by the app. You must give only the required permissions that are needed to run the tool properly and nothing else.
Which technology is used in these apps?
These smartphone apps use two main technologies- Bluetooth® and GPS navigation.
Bluetooth® is used to detect the number of people each person has come in contact with. The stronger the Bluetooth signal, the lesser the distance between two people.
GPS navigation is used to detect the location of smartphone users who have the app installed.
What have Google and Apple proposed?
Tech companies Google and Apple have proposed a joint effort to develop an API using Bluetooth technology to help governments, human contact tracers, and health officials reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.
We hope that now your concept about contact tracing apps is clear. These were just a few applications and we will keep adding more to the list. The major technologies, that these apps use, are GPS navigation and Bluetooth®.
Being an Android and iPhone app development company, we have our fair share of projects using these technologies in our projects. In fact, we have developed a range of applications that use this technology.
Walkonomics was featured in The Guardian as the ‘Best iPhone App of the Week,’ which is an app for finding a route, surrounded by greenery and parks. On the other hand, Trackster is a real-time phone tracking application. It lets users track their kids, friends, or employees as the need be.
If you need any more information, feel free to contact us. One of our sales representatives will get in touch with you at the earliest.
This page was last edited on October 23rd, 2020, at 13:43.