Apple and Google's Covid-19 tracking service is now more useful than ever

covid-19 coronavirus crowd phone
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Apple and Google have boosted their Covid-19 contact tracing tools in order to help public health authorities (PHAs) track and alert users about coronavirus infections without needing an app to do so.

The new Exposure Notifications Express capability will provide a simpler deployment of regional exposure notifications while also enabling residents to opt in to the system more easily.

Since Apple and Google's Exposure Notifications System (ENS) launched back in May, PHAs worldwide have been working to adopt and deliver solutions to support their contact tracing efforts through automatic exposure notifications. To date, more than 20 countries and regions have deployed apps using ENS and in the US, six states (VA, ND, WY, AL, AZ and NV) have already done so.

Both companies have conducted more than one hundred technical briefings with state public health officers, state epidemiologists and their commissioned app developers in the US. They have also consulted the CDC, the CDC Foundation, the Association of Public Laboratories, the American Public Health Association and other public health authorities.

Covid-19 Notifications

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Exposure Notifications Express

Exposure Notifications Express is based on input from state PHAs and this new offering from Apple and Google is designed to help PHAs more quickly and easily provide notifications for their residents regarding potential Covid-19 exposures.

PHAs using this new capability won't need to build their own apps as they can simply provide both companies with information about how to reach the PHA, guidance for residents and recommendations on potential actions through an easy-to-use interface. Apple and Google then use this information to provide a fully operational Exposure Notifications System to both iOS and Android users.

After upgrading to iOS 13.7, iPhone users in states using this new capability will be shown a notification informing them of that exposure notifications are now available in their state. Tapping this notification will then allow them to turn on this feature without having to download an app. The process works in much the same way on Google's Android operating system.

Spokespeople from Apple and Google provided further details on the new capability in a statement, saying:

“As the next step in our work with public health authorities on Exposure Notifications, we are making it easier and faster for them to use the Exposure Notifications System without the need for them to build and maintain an app. Exposure Notifications Express provides another option for public health authorities to supplement their existing contact tracing operations with technology without compromising on the project’s core tenets of user privacy and security. Existing apps using the Exposure Notification API will be compatible with Exposure Notifications Express, and we are committed to supporting public health authorities that have deployed or are building custom apps.”

Maryland, Nevada, Virginia and Washington DC will be the first PHAs in the US to deploy Exposure Notifications Express.

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.