Bay Area Tech Giants Collaborate on COVID-Tracking App

Photo: Terje Sollie

Apple and Google are partnering to help authorities and health organizations track exposure to the coronavirus using Bluetooth technology.

The two Silicon Valley giants are working on a digital platform to enable contact tracing, a measure that identifies people who have been exposed to the virus and who they have been in contact with, the companies announced Friday.

The companies will first release interfaces built on existing public health apps in May that can work on iOS or Android systems, followed by a more comprehensive platform built into the base operating system (OS) in the coming months to which users will be able to opt in.

The technology uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to ping other devices in the area allowing for a digital fingerprint to be created by participating users. To address privacy concerns the platform would generate ever-changing digital IDs that are stored and process locally on your device. If infected, the user would consent to letting the system know and it would alert the devices that came in close proximity to that user in the last 14 days all while keeping their identity secret.


While privacy is a major concern, so is accuracy. The technology cannot account for the nuances of PPE, physical barriers such as walls, or other potential factors that may escalate or deescalate probability of infection. So far this would act as more of a supplement to the arsenal of preventative care.

Apple and Google’s CEOs, Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai, took to Twitter to announce the technology.


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