As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread around the world, Apple has found itself contributing to attempts to curtail it. For instance, it has made charitable donations and helped produced protective equipment for healthcare workers. However, the thing most notable is its collaboration with Google on contact tracing technology.
Apple’s Work COVID-19 Contact Tracing
There are various elements to Apple’s work on symptom tracking and contact tracing. They can all seem to be basically the same thing, but they are very distinct tools iOS 13.5 introduced what Exposure Logging. This allows users sync up with supported COVID-19 contact tracing apps issued by health authorities. Apple’s exposure logging feature does not, in itself, do the contact tracing. It is the framework on which those authorities can build. As the official support website explains:
Exposure Notification API to support COVID-19 contact tracing apps from public health authorities.
Some countries are using this API and the decentralized approach it brings. Others have chosen not to.
The Next Step
With the API now available and some apps starting to appear, attention can turn to the next stage. When making their original announcement, Apple and Google said that “Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform by building this functionality into the underlying platforms.”
Apple Supporting COVID-19 Research
In the U.S. there is a COVID-19 app for iOS and it now includes a Symptom Tracking feature. Developed in association with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the tool anonymously collects data to help researchers get a better understanding of COVID-19. Again, this should not be confused for contact tracing (or, indeed, medical advice). Furthermore, Apple made mobility data available, showing how people are traveling (or not) in the midst of lockdowns/stay at home orders.
Donating Money and Equipment
Apple awarded $10 million from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund to COPAN Diagnostics. The company also designed, tested, and distributed almost 10 million face shields and sourced over 30 million face masks for healthcare professionals.