The coronavirus contact tracking app for England and Wales has finally launched. However, developers are already working on future updates that could let users know if they are too exposed to the virus.
Also on the roadmap is the international functionality with which the technology can be used to track people from other countries, according to the company responsible for creating the app.
Contact tracking apps rely on smartphone bluetooth to keep an anonymous log of other users who are also using the service and automatically notify users when someone in close proximity later tests positive.
Zuhlke Engineering received more than £ 5m for two contracts to develop and support the much belated project.
The company’s managing director, Wolfgang Emmerich, told the PA news agency that the app was “absolutely solid,” but the developers would continue to improve it over the next six months.
He said one area that is being worked on is more of a “personalized risk score” than a neighborhood score based on how many Bluetooth hits a person receives from others.
“That could actually help people get a sense of the risky life they are leading,” he told PA.
Mr Emmerich said that international interoperability requires coordination with international partners in order to work, as well as creating a central repository of the anonymous ID keys that are used to ping people when they are in close contact with someone who is positive Tests.
“I haven’t finished a design for it yet, I can’t tell you how it will work, it requires coordination with international partners, it’s going well, it’s on the roadmap for the next six months. ” he explained.
Although Mr. Emmerich was unable to confirm the exact adoption rate of the app during testing on the Isle of Wight and Newham, London, he said the testing phase “confirmed that the app worked”.
“We learned the adoption rate, we learned that contacts were discovered, we learned that users were using the app to self-diagnose, and we were booking tests through the app,” he said.
“We’ve confirmed that users like to use the app to check-in at certain locations where the Test and Trace poster is displayed with a QR code at the entrance.”
When thinking about the first app, which was eventually scrapped, Mr. Emmerich said his team recommended such a move in June due to battery handling restrictions on iOS.
The original app drained the battery significantly more as it would only work on iOS if it were in the foreground.
The final app only needs 2-3% electricity per day.
“What ultimately sealed the demise of the first app is that Apple has refused to sacrifice battery power so that Bluetooth apps can look for beacon information in the background after Bluetooth pings,” he told PA.
“This is a compromise decision that a company like Apple can reasonably make. There are good commercial and good technical reasons for making these decisions, but in the end it prevented the first app from working reliably.”