Apple and Google announce partnership to help track COVID-19 infections

Apple Google Partner On Covid 19 Contact Tracing Technology
Apple Google Partner On Covid 19 Contact Tracing Technology (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • Apple and Google are partnering to fight COVID-19.
  • The companies are working on technology to help with contact tracing.
  • They will use Bluetooth technology to help keep user privacy in check.

Apple has announced a joint partnership with Google to assist governments and health agencies in fighting against the coronavirus pandemic. Apple made the announcement in a press release on the Apple Newsroom website this afternoon.

"Google and Apple are announcing a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design."

The companies have recognized contact tracing as a valuable tool in slowing the spread of the virus, and have committed to building a solution that uses Bluetooth technology to help track the pandemic. The companies say that using Bluetooth, rather than location tracking, will enable a level of user privacy that it hopes people will be comfortable with.

"Apple and Google will be launching a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing."

The companies will be rolling out the new technology in two stages, beginning in May. The first step will be to release APIs that enable apps developed to use the technology to work on both iOS and Android.

"First, in May, both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores."

The second stage of the effort will focus on building a "Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform" into iOS and Android. According to Apple, this will enable users to opt into the program as well as help more apps to utilize it.

"Second, in the coming months, Apple and Google will work to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms. This is a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities. Privacy, transparency, and consent are of utmost importance in this effort, and we look forward to building this functionality in consultation with interested stakeholders. We will openly publish information about our work for others to analyze."

The companies believe that "there has never been a more important moment to work together" and hope that the technology could bring vital tools to those fighting the virus.

"All of us at Apple and Google believe there has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world's most pressing problems. Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life."

You can read the full press release at the Apple Newsroom website.

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Joe Wituschek