Apple and Google announce updates for Covid tracking without needing an app

Tech giants Apple and Google have both announced updates to help bolster Covid tracking software without needing to download an app.

The new iOS 13.7 update can inform people of potential exposure to Covid-19 through the software itself.

The functionality is called Exposure Notifications Express and is only available when a Public Health Authority (PHA) supports it.

Ireland developed their own contact-tracing app which uses the the Google Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) system.

The iOS update is currently being rolled out to Apple users, while Google will release a different version under the same name for Android 6.0 and higher later this month.

The update will give health authorities more power to send notifications to those who have not downloaded an tracing app. They will have to set up two different types of servers.

One is a test verification server which validates positive diagnoses during uploads. The other is a key server which deals key uploads and downloads. It also where the results are stored.

Apple outlined how the new update will work:

  • First, a user with Exposure Notifications enabled on their iPhone running the iOS 13.7 update gets tested for COVID-19.
  • The test center or other health care provider determines that the user has a positive test result and reports it to a public health authority.
  • The PHA then generate a verification code using the test verification server.
  • They send the verification code to the user. The code may be emailed, read over the phone, or provided as a clickable deep link in a text message.
  • The user enters the verification code or clicks the provided link to inform their iPhone of the positive diagnosis.
  • The user’s iPhone contacts the test verification server to validate the verification code. If the code is valid, it receives back a long-term authentication token from the test verification server and stores it.

The idea for the update is to automatically link someone who tests positive for Covid-19 with the relevant health authority. It also gives health authorities the ability to store data about those who have tested positive for the virus.