Apple releases contact-tracing feature for iPhones, no app download required
02nd Sep 2020
Working through bluetooth, the setting can trace other phone users you’ve come into contact with and quickly send out health alerts when there’s a positive Covid-19 result
Apple has developed a way for public health authorities to implement digital exposure notification, without having to develop their own apps.
For iPhone users, this feature is available through the latest iOS 13.7 system update.
After updating you’ll receive a notification explaining the exposure notification system and what it does, from which you can choose to opt-in.
Then after quickly installing a provisioning file, users will be able to start using Exposure Notifications Express.
What the contract-tracing feature does
Exposure Notifications Express keeps a 14-day log of other phones detected via Bluetooth and sends an alert if one or more of their users is later diagnosed with Covid-19.
Those who become sick without having received a warning message can still alert those who they’ve recently come in contact with.
All they have to do is tap on a text message sent by the public health authority to their smartphone after a positive diagnosis.
The system is designed to work as a go-between for public health authorities and the general public.
Working with public health authorities
Public health authorities can provide Apple with contact information, guidance about care and precautions and recommendations on next steps.
The feature requires this collaboration with local authorities, who will still have to elect to participate and customise the messaging sent to users in their area when they receive this notification and onboarding info.
However, the notification system saves valuable time because countries will no longer have to develop their own contact-tracing apps.
Until officials decide whether or not to support the initiative, the system suggests that iPhone users download a local app if one exists as an alternative.
This message will explain that “exposure notifications have not been turned on by your public health authority”.
A similar exposure notification system will be available to Android users later this month as well.
However, Google is implementing it with an automatically generated application on Android 6.0, which is installed via the Google Play store.
So rather than being app-free, Google will create a basic coronavirus tracing app for public health authorities based on information they provide.
Apple and Google both clarified that Exposure Notification Express co-exists with, rather than replaces, existing contact-tracing apps, like the HSE’s COVID Tracker app.
If iPhone users have already installed the latest iOS 13.7 update and would like to enable the notification system, they can do so by clicking on settings-> privacy-> health.
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