Google MapsSource: Joe Maring / Android Central

What you need to know

  • Apple and Google have teamed up to create a contact tracing API for their respective smartphone operating systems.
  • The API will enable efficient and light contact tracing experiences on smartphones running iOS and Android.
  • Both companies shared screenshots and code snippets this week to help developers get a headstart.

Amid the unprecedented actions taking to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, large-scale contact tracing is one of the routes out of global lockdown. The idea is that users install apps on their cell phones which would let them know if someone they have come into extended contact with has tested positive for the coronavirus. It'll prompt people into self-isolation, and help limit the spread as a result. The approach was praised for its effectiveness in South Korea, and now governments in Europe and The Americas are onboard to create contact tracing systems as they work to reopen their economies while reducing loss of life.

To help out this effort, Apple and Google are building APIs into iOS and Android respectively that will enable developers to build battery-efficient contract tracing apps.

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Apple and Google today released screenshots (via CNBC) of what a potential contact tracing app, built via their exposure technology, could look like once deployed on millions -- if not billions of smartphones. The screenshots aren't meant to represent an actual app in progress, they're just intended to show the potential of these systems. Alongside those screenshots, both companies released code samples as well to help developers along before an official mid-May release.

Here's what a potential onboarding screen could look like:

Here's what a potential positive test entry screen could look like:

Here's what exposure notifications could look like:

Here's what a typical settings page could look like:

04 Covid 19 Exposure Notifications Settings Ios.Source: Apple / Google

Contact tracing isn't exactly uncontroversial, but it's the solution that's being bet on at the moment. Absent a vaccine to create widespread immunity, it's also one of the only actionable tools.

See how Apple and Google came together to trace the coronavirus

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