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The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to life as we know it for much of 2020. News of a new infectious disease potentially spreading around the globe broke in December 2019, when the novel virus first got identified in Wuhan, China, and a subsequent lockdown proved unsuccessful in containing a COVID-19 outbreak in the capital of the Hubei province. By March 2020, the entire world went into hibernation, hoping to restrict the virus’ spread, minimizing the infection rate via stay-at-home and social distancing measures.
At the very inception of the pandemic, many software developers and medical health professionals encouraged using smartphone technology to help stop the proliferation of this virus. At no previous point in history had such a potential solution been available. Thus, many were quick to jump on this opportunity and try and create mobile applications that will help their local society and humankind in general.
By April 2020, dozens of COVID apps appeared on Google Play, many of which included contact tracing, an essential strategy in interrupting chains of transmission of COVID-19 and reducing its associated mortality. These tracing apps work by using Bluetooth to continuously scan for nearby phones, swapping anonymous ID codes amongst each other. The codes in question notify people if they are around infected parties who have identified themselves as such or been in contact with someone sick. They mark this status in a central database managed by a national or local health authority that an app accesses. Below, we will look at five such pieces of dedicated software and how they have fared so far.
COVIDSafe is a tracing app developed by the Singaporean Government that the Australian one adopted in April 2020. It uses the BlueTrace protocol, warning users when they are within five feet of an infected person for fifteen or more minutes. The app stores contacts for twenty-one days. This timeframe got chosen factoring in the two-week incubation period, in addition to the time needed to confirm a positive test result. So far, COVIDSafe has over one million downloads from Google Play and is available for all Android users running an OS version above 5.0. Common complaints regarding COVIDSafe include a high battery drain, a sizeable use of processing power, and loading issues.
PlayStudios launched the app – COVID Trace in August 2020. It has a file size of 21.6 MB and is available free of charge for Nevada residents. PlayStudios is a game developer founded in the summer of 2011 that now has offices in Texas, California, and Nevada, focusing on creating casino-style apps for Android phones. Andrew Pascal, one of the founders of PlayStudio, brought the idea of his company developing a COVID tracing app to Jim Murren, the chairman of the Nevada COVID Task Force, who embraced it. COVID Trace works pretty much identically to COVIDSafe. However, it has not attained massive popularity, only amassing a little over 100,000 Google Play installs in its lifespan.
Let’s protect each other is the tagline of this software developed by Canadian e-commerce company Shopify and the country’s department responsible for its health policies – Health Canada. COVID Alert hit Google Play at the tail end of July 2020, only for residents of Ontario. It became available throughout Canada by October last year. Alberta is the only province where COVID Alert is unavailable. It has an app that it favors, ABTraceTogether. Again, like the two previously discussed mobile tracing solutions, this too utilizes the BlueTrace protocol. It has over one million downloads on Google Play and three in general. Feedback regarding COVID Alert has mainly been positive, with users’ chief issue being the software getting stuck when performing exposure scans.
Covid Watch is a nonprofit organization founded in February 2020 dedicated to building mobile technology to fight COVID-19 while defending user privacy. It is open-source software that uses the TCN and GAEN protocols. The creation of Covid Watch got underway thanks to more than two hundred volunteers that gave their time to make this project a reality. These included epidemiologists, law students, and public health advisers. Near the end of last year, this nonprofit closed its doors. Yet, its app is still available on Google Play for Arizona’s citizens. Despite receiving praise for its simplicity, this app has gotten little traction.
According to Carnegie Mellon University, one of the entities behind NOVID, this is the most accurate contact tracing app in existence. It got birthed by a team led by mathematician Po-Shen Loh, and in addition to Bluetooth, it also leverages ultrasonic technology. It has been available in select territories since 2020, getting glowing reviews. It has unparalleled classification accuracy, with a rate of over 90% in distances of twelve feet or less.
About the Author
Shelly Schiff has been working in the gambling industry since 2009, mainly on the digital side of things, employed by OnlineUnitedStatesCasinos.com. However, over her eleven-year career, Shelly has provided content for many other top interactive gaming websites. She knows all there is to know about slots and has in-depth knowledge of the most popular table games. Her golden retriever Garry occupies most of her leisure time. Though, when she can, she loves reading Jim Thompson-like crime novels.
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