Bluetooth helps battle COVID-19

Bluetooth helps battle COVID-19

Bill and Melinda Gates fund potential vaccine against COVID-19 If a person tests positive for COVID-19 later on, he/she can download the app and use it to scan a QR code received from the health service. This allows the infected person to upload the logged chirps to the cloud. These logs can then be scanned by anyone else with the same app. If chirps match, a notification will be issued to inform the user how long and how close an infected person was in proximity over the last two weeks. The notification will also advise them on the next step to take, depending on the area public health protocol. This could be anything from self-isolation to COVID-19 testing. "What's also great is that the technology can be flexible to how public health officials want to manage contacts with exposed cases in their specific region, which may change over time." says medical advisory team leader Dr. Louise Ivers. The use of chirps to log contact between devices ensures that even random strangers can be traced, while their personal information is protected. If most people with a smartphone and an enabled app did a daily scan, they could tell if they had been in contact with an infected person, without knowing who it was. Large-scale contact tracing using this system has twin benefits - it allows authorities to accurately identify exposed individuals and avoid unnecessary quarantine while ensuring that people can begin to go about their business once the pandemic shows signs of receding. "We want to be able to let people carefully get back to normal life while also having this ability to quarantine and identify certain vectors of an outbreak carefully," Rivest says. The team has moved forward with prototyping and permissions, meeting with giants such as Apple, Microsoft, and Google, as well as state and federal agencies to begin implementation of the tracking system. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Global Health, CSAIL, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Boston University, Brown University, MIT Media Lab, The Weizmann Institute of Science, and SRI International are some of the collaborators who have worked to develop the public health project. Rivest and his team also look forward to working in a central role with other efforts around the country and in Europe to develop similar privacy-first contact tracing systems. Rivest concludes, "We need a large percentage of the population to opt-in for this system to really work. We care about every single Bluetooth device out there; it's critical to make this a whole ecosystem. This project is a collective effort on the part of many, many people to get a system working." Sources: Foy., K. (2020). Bluetooth Signals from Your Smartphone Could Automate Covid-19 Contact Tracing While Preserving Privacy. https://news.mit.edu/2020/bluetooth-covid-19-contact-tracing-0409



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