A new report offers a look at how the Apple and Google COVID-19 contract tracing API, which will be available on May 1, was developed and launched in less than a month.
A new report by CNBC details how the idea originated in mid-March from a small team of Apple employees who were brainstorming ways to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The staffers discussed ways to use smartphones to eventually loosen stay-at-home restrictions.
Contract tracing is an accurate way of tracking the spread of a disease, by monitoring who an infected person may have come in contact with. However, the method is painstaking. The system developed by Apple and Google simplifies and automates the process with the use of smartphones.
Within a few weeks, dozens of Apple employees were working on the technology, codenamed “Bubble,” with support from software chief Craig Federighi and chief operating officer Jeff Williams, the de facto head of healthcare.
Early on, members of the team included employees from the Apple health care division, the company’s location services group, and various software developers. The team eventually expanded to include two of Apple’s in-house cryptography experts. Numerous other team members also volunteered their time to the project.
The team worked to develop solutions such as an opt-in Bluetooth-based system that sent anonymous alerts to nearby devices, storing information without involving Apple servers. Those features will be part of the finished system.
Google was also working on its own system, codename “Apollo.” The search giant joined on the project with Apple at the end of March, when Android VP Dave Burke got in touch with Apple about the project.
Apple CEO Tim Cook met virtually with Google CEO Sundar Pichai to give their final approval for the project, clearing the way for a public announcement of the project.
Apple and Google are expected to unveil their more privacy-based exposure notification APIs in a beta capacity on May 1. Public health authorities can create apps using the API.