With governments and health authorities in constant communication over how to better manage the COVID-19 pandemic, there has never been a more important moment to let go of old rivalries and work together to find solutions.
In the spirit of collaboration, Google and Apple are announcing a joint effort to harness Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus.
To break that down a little: COVID-19 can be transmitted through close proximity to affected individuals. Health organisations have identified contact tracing – the process of contacting anyone who has been in close proximity to an individual testing positive for COVID-19 – as a valuable tool to help contain the spread of the virus. To that end, a number of public health authorities, universities, and NGOs around the world have been doing important work to develop opt-in contact tracing app technology.
That's where Apple and Google come in. To further this cause, the two giants are teaming up and will be launching what Google is calling "a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing."
Google is quick to assure adopters that user privacy and security are central to the design. In a company announcement the multinational tech firm said, "the plan is to implement this solution in two steps while maintaining strong protections around user privacy."
It's all slated to kick off in May, when both companies will release APIs that enable interoperability between Android and iOS devices, using apps from public health authorities. These official apps will be available for users to download via their respective app stores.
Secondly, Google says that "in the coming months", it will work with Apple to enable a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building the functionality into the underlying platforms.
Google says it is "a more robust solution than an API and would allow more individuals to participate, if they choose to opt in, as well as enable interaction with a broader ecosystem of apps and government health authorities."
Whether you're an avid Android user or fully ensconced in Apple's ecosystem, slowing the spread of COVID-19 and accelerating the return of everyday life through working together must surely get a big thumbs up.