The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) has confirmed that it plans to use Apple and Google’s contact tracing technology in an upcoming app to be used to warn users if they have been in contact with someone infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus.
BBC News reports Britain’s health secretary Matt Hancock announced the move at the government’s daily pandemic press briefing, saying the NHS was “working closely with the world’s leading tech companies” on the initiative.
Apple and Google are working together to launch a comprehensive solution that includes application programming interfaces (APIs) and operating system-level technology to assist in enabling contact tracing.
Apple and Google will in May release APIs that provide interoperability between Android and iOS devices using apps from public health authorities. Apple says that user privacy and security will be central to the design of the project. These apps will be available for download from the iOS App Store and Google Play.
The BBC says the British health service’s digital innovation unit, NHSX, wasn’t aware of the project before it was announced on Friday, but now has plans to integrate the new technology into its app.
The app will allow people that have self-diagnosed shaving the coronavirus will be able to declare that status in the app, which will then send an alert to anyone that has recently been in contact with them for an extended period of time.
“If you become unwell with the symptoms of coronavirus, you can securely tell this new NHS app,” Hancock explained.
“And the app will then send an alert anonymously to other app users that you’ve been in significant contact with over the past few days, even before you had symptoms, so that they know and can act accordingly.
“All data will be handled according to the highest ethical and security standards, and would only be used for NHS care and research.
“And we won’t hold it any longer than is needed.”
A pre-release version of the software will be tested with families at a secure location in the North of England next week.