United Kingdom launches an application that monitors your social circle: how it will work and when it will be available

In the UK, they created an application that monitors the owner and his surroundings. And which, in order to protect against COVID-19, all residents of the country will have to install. The authorities believe that the free application, created by the National Health Service (NHS), will eliminate the strict requirements of self-isolation. Cloud4Y tells what’s what.

Great Britain is securely locked in its homes, as is Russia (at least officially). And the government is rapidly trying to find ways to ease restrictions without jeopardizing the safety of citizens. And one of the solutions was an application for mobile devices that will track the movements of infected coronavirus and the circle of their contacts. It is believed that with its help it will be possible to provide quick and convenient monitoring of contacts throughout the country.

Since May 5, the English government has been testing the application on medical workers and government officials on the Isle of Wight in the English Channel, and the rest of the UK will have access to NHS software in June. But this is only if the test results are recognized as successful.

It is also planned to involve entire teams of people who will look for people with symptoms of coronavirus. They will make several thousand calls a day, notifying people who come in contact with infected coronavirus about the need to take the COVID-19 test. Information will be taken from the NHS COVID-19 application.

At this point, the world has developed two models for tracking social contacts: decentralized, based on programs (APIs) created by Google and Apple, and centralized. The British and French authorities refused to use a decentralized model, explaining their decision by concern about the safety of personal data of citizens.

What kind of application is this and how does it work?

The contact monitoring application is designed to inform people that they are or were in close contact with a person who has identified COVID-19. It also shows who should be quarantined and who can already leave the house.

This may be an impetus to mitigate the measures of “distance” and return the country to normal life. The main task of the application is to quickly warn people about the need to isolate themselves. Users who download the application to their phone can also voluntarily sign up to be informed of their symptoms if they begin to feel unwell.

The principle of the application is to analyze data from Bluetooth transmitters that are installed on mobile devices. weak Bluetooth signals perform a digital “handshake” when two users are close to each other but keep this data anonymous. If close contact with the infected is recorded, the owner will receive a notification. Similar technologies are already being used in Singapore and India.

Officials assure that registration and notification will be anonymous, and movement data will not be transmitted to the police to monitor quarantine compliance. Otherwise, the application will simply not be installed, which puts an end to its effectiveness.

True, there is a ma-a-scarlet nuance. For the application to really work efficiently, it must be downloaded by at least 80% of smartphone users in the UK, which is about 60% of the country’s population. For comparison, one of the most popular instant messengers – WhatsApp – was downloaded and installed by only 67% of smartphone owners.

How the application will track the virus

  1. The user downloads the NHS COVID-19 application from Google Play or the App Store, after which he allows the use of Bluetooth on his mobile device.
  2. At the application setup stage, users will be asked to enter the first half of their zip code. This is necessary so that the application can identify new foci of infection. No more personal information will be requested until the user wants to report their poor health.
  3. The application runs in the background, waking up only if it detects another phone in sight. Then it will use Bluetooth to measure the distance to another person every 15 seconds. The application will remember another device for 28 days after contact.
  4. If the owner of the device has symptoms of flu or a similar disease, he reports them to the application. The owner will be asked a number of medical questions. Other NHS services in the UK work similarly, such as 111.
  5. Responses are analyzed using artificial intelligence. If the AI ​​decides that the symptoms resemble COVID-19 disease, then the person is informed that he needs to isolate himself for 2 weeks.
  6. At the same time, the AI ​​analyzes the social circle of the infected person using information from the application. And determines the potential likelihood of infection for each of them. Those who will be assigned the risk level “high” will also receive a warning about the need for self-isolation.
  7. When a user reports symptoms resembling coronavirus, they are sent to take a test (smear). So far, such notifications have to be issued manually, but they want to add this function to the application when it becomes available to all residents of the country.
  8. If the test is positive, then the recommendations for self-isolation remain valid for all who received such notifications. The contact tracking team will contact a sick user and find other people whom he could infect. If the test is negative, the application sends out contacts that they can stop self-isolation.

Data in the application will not be stored for more than 28 days, and general information will be deleted after the application is deleted and the pandemic ends.

Same thing but in pictures

Whose technology is used to run the application

The app was developed by NHS Technology and Research (NHSX) in collaboration with scientists from Oxford University and VMWare, whose partner is Cloud4Y. Technologies from Apple and Google were also considered, but the application uses its own approach. Details have not yet been disclosed.

Contact data will be stored on the user’s mobile device. When coronavirus symptoms are detected, it reports this in the application, and the data is transferred to the database of the UK health service. And their anonymous identifier is mapped to other devices whose owners contacted the patient.

How contact tracking works

1. To participate in the tracking program, mobile device users must have Bluetooth turned on.

2. When two people meet, their devices exchange a “key” that identifies the phone. Each person stores these individual keys on his device.

3. If after a few days one of these people is diagnosed with COVID-19, then he enters the result into the application.

4. The application asks to upload data about the key contacts for the previous 14 days to the cloud.

5. Also, the application will constantly update the database with the keys of devices whose owners are affected by the coronavirus. And if the user has contacted someone from this database, he will receive a notification.

Since the data on contact with the infected person will be associated with anonymous identifier keys, the user will not know who could transmit the virus.

Matthew Hancock, UK’s secretary of health, said detailed instructions would be sent to people later. And he added that the NHS slogan would be: “Stay home, install the application, protect yourself with the NHS and save lives.”

What else is useful to read on the blog Cloud4y

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