For much of the year 2020, the COVID-19 epidemic effectively ended life as we know it. The new virus was detected for the first time in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. A second shutdown sought to limit a COVID-19 epidemic in Hubei province’s capital, but it was ineffective. This was the first time that news of a new contagious illness with the potential to spread globally surfaced. By March of 2020, the whole earth had gone to sleep in a futile attempt to slow the virus’s growth and minimize the number of new infections through isolation and other precautionary measures.
At the start of the pandemic, several software developers and medical health professionals urged the use of smartphone technology to help stop the virus’s spread. A conceivable response of this type had never previously appeared in the course of human history. As a consequence, a large number of people have jumped at the possibility to create mobile applications that will benefit both their local society and humanity in general.
By April 2020, Google Play featured hundreds of COVID apps, many of which included contact tracing. Contact tracing is an important strategy for interrupting COVID-19 transmission chains and minimizing the fatality rate associated with it. This tracking software utilizes Bluetooth to constantly hunt for nearby mobile devices, with which they connect by exchanging anonymous ID numbers. The aforementioned codes alert people if they are in the presence of sick persons who have acknowledged their status as such, or if they have come into contact with an unwell person. They then enter this information into a centralized database, which is accessed through an application and is managed by a national or local health authority. Following that, we will look at five different pieces of specialist software and discuss how well they have done thus far.
COVIDSafe, a tracking software adopted by the Australian government in April 2020, was developed by the Singapore government. It employs the BlueTrace protocol, which alerts users if they are within fifteen minutes of being five feet from an infected person. The app can keep contact information for up to 21 days.
This time frame was chosen after considering the incubation period, which lasts two weeks, as well as the time necessary to confirm a positive test result. COVIDSafe has been downloaded over a million times from Google Play so far, and it is available to all Android users running an operating system version greater than 5.0. Common complaints with COVIDSafe include problems loading, substantial use of processing power, and a big drain on the battery.
PlayStudios’ product, COVID Trace, was published in August 2020. The file is 21.6 MB in size and is available for free download to Nevada residents. PlayStudios is a game development firm founded in the summer of 2011 with offices in Texas, California, and Nevada.
Their major focus is on creating casino-themed mobile applications for Android-based smartphones. Andrew Pascal, one of PlayStudio’s founders, approached Jim Murren, the head of the Nevada COVID Task Force, with the idea of his company developing a COVID tracing app. The proposal was approved because Jim Murren was enthused about it. COVID Trace’s functionality is quite similar to that of COVIDSafe. However, it has not been a huge success, as evidenced by the fact that it has only received slightly more than 100,000 Google Play installations over its life.
This initiative was created in Canada by the e-commerce firm Shopify and Health Canada, the government department in charge of the country’s health regulations. The software’s motto is “Let’s protect each other.” COVID Alert was published on Google Play at the end of July 2020, but only for residents of Ontario. It became accessible throughout Canada in October of the prior year. COVID Alert is only accessible in Alberta, making it the only province with this restriction. It is particularly fond of the ABTraceTogether program.
The BlueTrace protocol is also employed in this solution, making it similar to the previous two ways of mobile device tracking. More than one million individuals have downloaded it through Google Play, and three million have downloaded it in total. The majority of consumers have given COVID Alert positive reviews, with the most prevalent criticism being that the application becomes sluggish while attempting to do exposure scans.
Keep an eye on Covid
Covid Watch is a non-profit organization founded in February 2020 to create mobile technology to battle COVID-19 while simultaneously safeguarding its users’ privacy. The TCN and GAEN protocols are used by the application, which is open-source. More than 200 individuals gave their time to help make Covid Watch a reality, and the project was able to get off the ground and going as a result of their efforts.
Law students, epidemiologists, public health activists, and consultants were among those involved. This nonprofit organization shut down just before the end of the previous year. Residents in Arizona, however, may still download the app from Google Play. Despite being praised for its simplicity, this program has not achieved much traction.
One of the institutions behind NOVID, Carnegie Mellon University, asserts that it is the most accurate contact tracking tool currently available. It was developed by a group led by a mathematician named Po-Shen Loh, and it uses ultrasonic wave technology in addition to Bluetooth. This has been accessible in some locations since 2020, and critics have nothing but praise for it. It has an unequaled degree of classification accuracy, with a rate of over 90% at distances of twelve feet or less or closer.