Apple and Google announced they are working on a Bluetooth-based contact tracing system for Covid-19, which will allow users to share data through approved apps from health organisations.
In a series of documents and white papers, the companies explained the system would use short-range Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmissions to establish a voluntary contact-tracing network, keeping extensive data on phones that have been in close proximity with each other.
Users who download the app can report if they've been diagnosed with Covid-19, allowing the system to alert other users whether they were in close contact with an infected person.
To preserve privacy, the system will broadcast an anonymous key rather than a static identity, and those keys cycle every 15 minutes. Once a person shares that they've been infected, the app will only share keys from the specific period in which they were contagious.
Apple and Google plan to introduce a pair of iOS and Android APIs in mid-May and make sure the health authorities' apps can implement them. During this phase, users will still have to download an app to participate. But in the months after it is complete, the companies will work on building tracing functionality into the underlying operating system, as an available option to everyone with an iOS or Android phone.