Billions of Phones May Not Be Able to Run COVID-19 Contact Tracing

Apple and Google's Plan to Track Virus Contact Might Not Work for Many

Contract Tracing could be a powerful tool for identifying COVID-19 exposure and applying treatment but the system might stumble if billions cannot run it.

Woman wearing mask and talking on a cell phone
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If you thought privacy concerns would be the biggest hurdle for Apple and Google's quest to build a global contact tracing system for the COVID-19 pandemic, you'd be wrong. It may be older phones' inability to even run the proposed system, according to a new report.

What is Contact Tracing? Apple and Google want to implement a system that allows infected people to identify themselves to an app on their phone. The phone (iOS or Android) would then use nearby contact information (basically other phones you and your phones were near) to notify other people they've been in close contact with an infected person.

Tech requirements: Nearby data information is collected by one phone's Bluetooth radio identifying itself to other nearby phones. However, an analyst speaking with The Financial Times claims that billions of people have older phones lacking either Bluetooth low energy chips or the operating system to support the contact tracing system.

  • 4.78 billion people have mobile phones
  • 3.5 Billion people have smartphones
  • Smartphone usage increased by 40% between 2016 and 2020

Source: BankMyCell

Who this hurts: The concern is this tech disconnect could hurt poorer communities and developing nations where the latest smartphones and technologies might not be as prevalent.

Bottom line: Apple, Google, and countless other tech companies are doing what they can to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Each solution, even one as audacious as cross-platform contact tracing, is still ultimately only part of the solution.

Via: TechRadar

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