Tech companies like Apple and Google are in the works of figuring out how their firms can take initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic. These two companies have come together and formed an alliance to develop an embedded coronavirus-tracking system feature in devices. To learn more about this future operating system, read the article below.
We’ve been keeping tabs on how big tech firms are gunning ahead with initiatives to combat the coronavirus pandemic. Now, Apple and Google are combining forces to maximize their potential impact: The two tech titans formed an alliance to embed a coronavirus-tracking feature into the heart of their operating systems, iOS and Android, that will be available in the coming months.
Here’s how it works: Users opt-in to use the feature — which leverages Bluetooth to log who they’ve come into contact with — and they enter if they’ve been infected with the coronavirus. With this info, the two tech giants would pave the way for public health officials to implement contact tracing to identify people who should self-isolate to halt further spread of the virus.
The duo’s massive footprints could make their collaboration hugely impactful — especially as the contact tracing methods currently available to public health authorities are likely falling short.
Google and Apple power the operating systems of nearly all smartphones globally — so, combined, the two hold the power to reach the masses. Android and iOS power 87% and 13% of smartphones worldwide in 2020, respectively, per the IDC.
And considering an estimated 72% of US consumers currently own a smartphone, the pair’s contact tracing initiative would touch a massive portion of the population. While consumers exhibit general distrust toward tech companies when it comes to handling sensitive health data, we think consumers would likely put their privacy concerns aside and would opt into Apple and Google’s initiative if it means bringing the spread of the pandemic to a standstill.
Meanwhile, other contact tracing efforts have limited reach or aren’t moving quickly enough to limit the spread of the fast-moving, widespread virus. Research shows that contact tracing approaches aren’t as effective when a virus spreads as widely as the novel coronavirus has in much of the world.
It’s essential for public health workers to hunt down lists of people who have come into contact with infected patients as soon as possible to slow down the spread of the virus. But this process can take several days, per STAT — and during this time, infected individuals could be spreading the highly contagious virus. And while smaller-scale, app-based initiatives have cropped up to expedite the process, the groups spearheading these endeavors may not have a wide enough reach to make a meaningful impact if they’re only offering public officials data for a small volume of people.
We think the Google-Apple partnership could clear the way for streamlined data exchange among healthcare entities now and post-pandemic — as interoperability will likely be top of mind for health execs in the near future. The pair is constructing the contact tracing features to be platform-agnostic so that health organizations can access relevant data quickly and consistently.
And we expect both companies to lean on each other and their combined ability to reach the large majority of consumers via their smartphones in their health plays moving forward since it should prove valuable to health organizations struggling with poor data exchange measures that can weigh on the value of care, create backlogs, and add on costs. Apple and Google already have health data interoperability-focused initiatives in the works: Apple flaunts its Apple Health Records feature, and Google is building an easy-to-navigate EHR tool — but if their healthcare-centered partnership remains intact, each of these endeavors could be enhanced.