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Apple and Google announce Exposure Notifications Express, built-in system to trace COVID-19

Apple and Google have announced an extension of the Exposure Notification API to help health agencies in COVID 19 contact tracing.

twitter-logoYasmin Ahmed | September 2, 2020 | Updated 11:03 IST

Highlights

  • Apple and Google have announced Exposure Notifications Express, an extension to the original API.
  • The Exposure Notifications Express will not require users to download apps, unlike the case in the previous version.
  • The new framework can work as a separate entity and is currently rolling out to iOS 13.7 users.

Apple and Google have announced a new built-in system called Exposure Notifications Express that will help in tracing people with COVID-19. The Exposure Notifications Express is an expansion of the previous Exposure Notification framework that can function without public authorities downloading the apps separately, while being in charge.

Exposure Notifications Express is currently rolling out for iOS 13.7 users and is likely to come later this month to all users with Android 6.0+. The new framework will ensure a wider reach to people as they can get notified directly through Android and iOS. The new system will not affect the existing applications as the two frameworks can function as separate entities.

According to the two companies, more than 20 countries and regions have launched the Exposure Notifications Express so far, as noted by 9to5Google. The adoption could be broader, but many health authorities lack the technical ability or resources to hire a developer.

"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," Apple and Google said in a statement. "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."

Under the new system, participating health departments will assemble a configuration file, allowing them to set their risk scores, redirect users to their specific health department website, and modify the recommendation for users who have been exposed.

Android and iOS work separately on the system. In Android, the configuration file will automatically generate a custom Android app, while iOS will incorporate the settings into its OS-level contact system. The iOS version will be built into iOS 13.7 which is now available. Users can update via the Settings app on their iPhone. Apple has also released iPadOS 13.7 with bug fixes, 9to5Mac noted. Users will also be able to opt-in to receive a push notification when their local public health authority adopts Exposure Notifications Express.

When the initial phase of the Exposure Notifications App was launched in iOS 13.5, users had to first download an app from their public health authority to opt-in to Exposure Notifications. Google and Apple had hinted at a phase two that would reduce reliance on public health authorities. The first public authorities in the United States to adopt the Exposure Notifications Express System will be Nevada, Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC.

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