Apple and Google have been working on ways to allow every Android and iPhone user to receive coronavirus exposure notifications. Already seen in public health apps, we were told that those alerts would be pushed onto the OS level. But for governments having trouble with getting the API integrated, they can now sign up to get an app online fast with the Exposure Notifications Express program.
As a refresher, the companies have been working on a Bluetooth-based contact logging system that allows users to report infections and automatically notify those that they may have been in close contact with. The Exposure Notifications System is not a replacement for government-led contact tracing which involves multiple detailed interviews with coronavirus patients.
Six states have already integrated the ENS API into their COVID-tracking apps — Alabama, Arizona, Nevada, North Dakota, Virginia, and Wyoming — with 25 others exploring their options. Some governments, though, have had trouble deploying the API either on a technical level or because of a lack of resources. ENE fills that gap by reducing the work down to the provision of some key vectors, then letting Apple and Google do the rest.
Governments will submit a configuration file that includes information on the health agency itself, the risk model for determining who gets notified when a positive diagnosis is reported, which servers to direct Bluetooth ping logs to, and messaging to end users.
Apple will turn that config file around into an app-less workflow built around the API for iOS users.
Google will auto-generate an Android app for users to install. A company representative stated that this method lets Exposure Notifications Express reach its wide device base.
As has already been established with the ENS API, no personally identifiable information, including location data, is collected and sent to servers. Users ultimately decide if they want to report a positive diagnosis. And the API itself, in whatever form it takes, can be uninstalled at any time. You can learn more about privacy measures in our earlier story here.
ENE will be supported with iOS 13.7 going out starting today and later this month for Android 6.0 Marshmallow or later devices in a Play services update. Both platforms will push alerts letting users know that an ENE product is available for where they live and encourage them to sign on.
Express, currently targeted to just the U.S., may be available in places where an ENS app with the Apple-Google API is already in place — that will be the case with Nevada and Virginia, both of which will be first adopters alongside the District of Columbia and Maryland. It is not meant to replace existing apps.