A couple of months back, the United States government was in talks with major tech companies such as Apple and Google to help the healthcare system in its battle against the 2019 novel coronavirus. The proposal was that of a COVID-19 contact tracing software that will be integrated into the operating system. It will pull data from compatible health apps and use Bluetooth to detect if the user is within the vicinity of someone who might be infected. Meanwhile, officials in the United Kingdom initially wanted to develop their own platform, but have reportedly abandoned the project.
Original plans detailed that the app would have been developed by the NHS' tech arm – the NHSX. However, results from preliminary trails reportedly indicated that it was "highly inaccurate," according to the Independent. There was apparently a huge disparity in reliability wherein it only detected around 75 percent of those on Android and a just four percent for iOS mobile phones. Hence, it hopes to switch its system over to that of the two aforementioned tech companies.
In contrast, Google and Apple were able to confirm that their respective systems are accurate by up to 99 percent on both operating systems. The time and money spent on the development of the custom app are expected to raise some questions. In fact, It would not be ready until late in 2020, which is not acceptable given the health crisis. U.K. health secretary Matt Hancock, on the other hand, pointed out that there was a "technical barrier" that affected its functionality.
He stated: "We found that our app works well on Android devices but Apple software prevents iPhones being used effectively for contact tracing unless you are using Apple's own technology." Hancock went on to reveal that the government actually backed two platforms: Its own and the one from Google/Apple as well.
Nevertheless, despite plans to move forward with the contact tracing app from Google and Apple, the team behind it believes their work can help enhance its capabilities. Executive chair of NHS Test and Trace Baroness Harding said: "Precisely because we've developed our own and developed some really sophisticated distance calculations we think that we can enhance the Google-Apple platform such that it will work."