Executive Briefing

Apple and Google are partnering on Covid-19 ‘contact tracing’

That’s only part of the solution.

Apple and Google, which control the world’s two dominant smartphone platforms, announced a rare but important partnership today: The companies are working together on technology for “contact tracing,” one of the systems that many believe will be essential to rebooting city life in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The idea is that people who opt in to tracking will be able to use their phones’ Bluetooth signal to broadcast their presence to other nearby phones. If you later test positive for the Covid-19 virus, you’ll be able to notify people who were in your proximity that they have been exposed, so they can self-isolate to avoid further spread. Similarly, if someone you’ve been around tests positive, you’ll be able to get an alert.

The system is being designed with permission, privacy, and security in mind, and the companies have already published draft technical documentation.

This is great news. While others have already long been working on contact tracing services, only Apple and Google have the power to run the services at the operating system level, which will increase performance, security, and efficiency. And only by working in partnership can they quickly make an interoperable system, which means that iPhones and Android devices, used by billions, will be able to talk to each other.

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Dan Frommer

Hi, I’m Dan Frommer and this is The New Consumer, a publication about how and why people spend their time and money.

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