- India’s NIC has created an app called Aarogya Setu.
- The app uses Bluetooth handshake – which keeps a track of nearby devices – to track coronavirus patients.
- The Indian app is somewhat similar to an app used by Singapore for the same purpose.
Bluetooth can be used to scan and connect to nearby devices like smartphones and earphones. Now, Indian government is going to use this technology to trace suspected covid-19 patients. On Wednesday, the first version of an app called Aarogya Setu, created by the eGov Mobile Apps division of NIC, was rolled out on Google and Apple app stores. The app is likely to be used in contact tracing of the suspect coronavirus cases, reducing time and error in manual identification. The app is loosely based on Singapore's tried and tested community tracing app called TraceTogether.
How will it work
In order to contain the virus, health officials need to track all the close contacts of a suspect without losing too much time. It starts with informing people if they have come into contact with another person who has been tested positive or is a suspected covid-19 case. Then begins the massive exercise of identifying and reaching out to all those who may have come in close contact with the confirmed case.
Often, people don't remember, and in some cases they hide their contact history which sets a lot of loose ends for the virus to spread. The new app looks to solve this part of the problem. The app will have permission to use the phone's Bluetooth and once it comes within close proximity with another phone, it will identify the other device with its Bluetooth prints.
This feature will help identify if a person put under quarantine has come into close contact with another person. It's a technical equivalence of one phone shaking hands with another while remembering the time and location of the meet up.
According to a statement released by the government of India the app will help the government take necessary timely steps for assessing risk of spread of COVID-19 infections.
The government has assured that user's privacy will not be compromised and it notes that the personal data will be encrypted using state of the art technology which will make sure the user data stays secure on the phone till it is needed for medical intervention.
Countries in Europe are also working on this model. Though some countries are working on dedicated wristbands with the same technology, India decided to go ahead with a phone app to save the time it would have taken to rollout that many wristbands.
The app is available in 11 languages and is expected to go through a number of updates as the pandemic progresses. The future versions of the app are likely to offer additional features.