Apple and Google have teamed up to launch a mobile phone tool to follow the contacts of people infected with coronavirus.
The technology is a form of “contact tracing,” a method used to identify people who may have had contact with infected individuals in an attempt to prevent additional spread of disease.
Health officials say the method is an effective way to help slow the spread of highly contagious viruses.
The current coronavirus, which is affecting much of the world, causes the disease COVID-19. Many carriers of the virus do not know they have it because they have no immediate signs of illness. They could be spreading the virus unknowingly. Contact tracing is a way to identify others who may have been infected.
The two companies say Bluetooth wireless technology will permit devices near each other to exchange information. A record of the Bluetooth signals between devices would be created.
If a device user becomes infected with the virus and agrees to share that information, the record could be used to inform other people that the user could have infected.
Apple and Google say they first plan to release app versions of the technology for Android and Apple devices by mid-May. Over the next several months, they plan to build the tracking technology directly into the device operating systems.
Numerous technology companies and organizations have been seeking to develop tools to help fight COVID-19. Some of the existing tools use data from mobile devices to measure and record population movements.
Health and government officials have called for such technology to help fight the current crisis. Government-backed apps have already been launched in some countries, including Singapore, South Korea, India and China. The technology is also being developed in Britain, Germany and Italy.