Today, Apple has released iOS 13.7 version with a major update to support next-generation contact tracing API. The new Exposure Notification Express system allows public health authorities to carry on COVID-19 contact tracing without developing a supporting app.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Apple and Google have been working on developing Exposure Notifications feature as a digital support system for health care authorities to allow them to do contact tracing in order to limit the transmission of the virus by sending the alert notification is a user has been in contact with a COVID-19 positive person or in case of testing positive, sending notifications to contacts who were close to them in past 10 days. Previously, the feature required a compatible app for iPhone and Android smartphones.
iOS 13.7 Exposure Notifications Express
All iPhone users will receive the new Exposure Notification Express in the iOS 13.7 update. However, for the public health authorities, the joining procedure has a few more steps. The interested body will have to fill a config file to record their name, logo, criteria for sending an exposure alert, and details of the information and protocol which will be stated in the exposure notification.
The companies state that,
“As the next step in our work with public health authorities on Exposure Notifications, we are making it easier and faster for them to use the Exposure Notifications System without the need for them to build and maintain an app. Exposure Notifications Express provides another option for public health authorities to supplement their existing contact tracing operations with technology without compromising on the project’s core tenets of user privacy and security. Existing apps using the Exposure Notification API will be compatible with Exposure Notifications Express, and we are committed to supporting public health authorities that have deployed or are building custom apps.”
Apple and Google say they will directly integrate the provided information by the public health authorities into iOS 13.7 for an efficient contact tracing system. They also explain that the concerned health authorities will have complete control of the system even without an app which includes triggers for notifications and advice and guidance in for COVID-19 positive individuals.
Both the companies maintain that users’ personal information and data are neither stored by Apple and Google nor are they sold to any third-party. Therefore, they should opt for the feature without any security and privacy concerns.
To break the chain of transmission, contact tracing is an imperative part for it is important to not only alert the infected individual but also to notify others who came into contact with that person so they can go into quarantine and get the medical help they need. Due to the joint effort of Apple and Google, the Exposure Notification API has enabled health care authorities in 20 countries to launch apps for contact tracing.
Besides the API, In March Apple launched a COVID-19 app and website for users in the United States to digitally screen their symptoms and receive CDC approved advice and guidelines.