Bluetooth-Enabled Armbands, Tracking Apps To Keep Tabs On Americans Infected With Coronavirus

A European group said on Wednesday they will soon release technology for smartphones so people can find out if they’ve come in contact with anyone infected with coronavirus.

Those without smartphones could wear Bluetooth-enabled armbands, according to The European initiative, called Pan-European Privacy Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT).

“The initiative involves gathering data via smartphones to show who a person with the virus had come in close contact with, so that those people at risk could then be contacted,” Reuters reported.

PEPP-PT, which brings together 130 researchers from eight countries, aims to issue a licensed technology platform by April 7, the basis for contact-tracing applications, with roll-out of the first apps a week or so after that.

“You are talking about a very short space of time,” said Hans-Christian Boos, founder of German technology firm Arago and a member of the German government’s digital advisory council. Boos is a prime mover behind the effort gathering 130 researchers from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.

Epidemiologists say contact tracing will become a vital weapon in containing future flare-ups in COVID-19, the flu-like disease caused by coronavirus, once national lockdowns slow the rapid spread of the virus.

The British government is also working on a similar app.

“The existence of the app, which was first revealed by Health Service Journal, has been known some time, but key technical details have only recently been agreed by NHSX, the NHS England innovation unit leading the project,” Sky News reported.

The app will detect other phones in close vicinity using short-range Bluetooth signals, then store a record of those contacts on the device, the sources say.

If someone tests positive for COVID-19, they will be able to upload those contacts, who can then be alerted – after a suitable delay, to avoid accidentally identifying an individual – via the app.

This method means data is not sent regularly to a central authority, potentially easing concerns around privacy, which NHSX fears may slow adoption of the app.

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