England's Apple-Google Exposure Notification app set to begin public trials

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England is set to launch public trials of its upcoming coronavirus contact tracing app based on the Apple-Google Exposure Notification framework.

Credit: NHSX
Credit: NHSX


The National Health Service initially rejected the Apple-Google API in favor of a proprietary technology built by NHSX, the organization's innovation arm. In June, the NHSX backtracked on that decision following poor testing results.

Now, a revamped system based on the underlying technology created by Apple and Google is set to begin public trials on the Isle of Wright on Thursday, the BBC reported.

One area of concern for the NHS remains accuracy of exposure notification, since past tests have run into problems with the system falsely flagging when people are within 2 meters of each other.

The UK government intends to launch the public trials "without much fanfare," since it isn't clear when a finished version will be ready to deploy to the public.

"The app should enable us to return to more normal daily activities with the reassurance that our contacts can be rapidly and anonymously notified if we get infected," said Christophe Fraser, an Oxford University professor and a scientific advisor to the Department of Health.

In June, the U.K.'s contract tracing plans were said to be in "disarray" due to an apparent lack of communication with Apple and Google.

The switch to the Apple-Google API in June appears to be largely because of the strict privacy controls that Apple devices have. The NHSX's proprietary contact tracing software only detected 4% of nearby iPhones.

At the time, NHS officials said they were working on a model that would "bring the best bits of both systems." Apple later stated that they didn't know "what they mean by this hybrid model" since the officials didn't speak to the Silicon Valley giant.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    fred1fred1 Posts: 1,122member
    Do these actually work? Has any country had success? I was under the impression that it requires 60% of the population taking part and the most any country has seen is around 20%. 

    Of course my fear is that people will stop taking the necessary measures because they’ll think they’re “covered” by this app. 
  • Reply 2 of 12
    So no app for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?
    MacPro
  • Reply 3 of 12
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 1,128member
    fred1 said:
    Do these actually work? Has any country had success? I was under the impression that it requires 60% of the population taking part and the most any country has seen is around 20%. 

    Of course my fear is that people will stop taking the necessary measures because they’ll think they’re “covered” by this app. 
    That depends on what you mean by work. Any number of installations gives some chance of contact tracing, but they estimate around 60% before it's a useful way of reducing infections by catching cases before they can spread too far.

    As for installation numbers: it's hard to find a current metric. All the articles I found were 3 weeks old or older, but the Republic of Ireland had installations equivalent to 37% of the population by July 21 and their app had only come out 2 weeks earlier.

    Bebble: Ireland (Northern and Republic of) both have API based apps with cross border support.
    caladanian
  • Reply 4 of 12
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,788member
    beeble42 said:
    So no app for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?
    NI already has one, and NHS Scotland and NHS Wales are a separate entity to NHS England.
  • Reply 5 of 12
    GeeAyeGeeAye Posts: 39unconfirmed, member
    elijahg said:
    beeble42 said:
    So no app for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?
    NI already has one, and NHS Scotland and NHS Wales are a separate entity to NHS England.

    Lucky those borders are hard borders so that you can have different apps on each side.
  • Reply 6 of 12
    beeble42 said:
    So no app for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?
    Quoting Ted Lasso - "How many countries are there in your country". "Four".
  • Reply 7 of 12
    darkpawdarkpaw Posts: 212member
    Couple of things about the article:
    1. NHSX isn't "the [NHS's] innovation arm"; it's a government unit separate from the NHS and not funded by the NHS.
    2. It's the Isle of Wight, not Wright, which is "not right", natch.

    The trouble with having devolved health services across the four parts of the UK - and using the app that NHSX initially tried to produce for NHS England - was that the app would not work with whatever app NHS Scotland/NI/Wales created. Indeed, they wouldn't work with any other contact tracing apps worldwide either. Unless all four of the UK's Health Services were using the same app, they wouldn't interoperate.

    When you use the Apple-Google API those apps will be able to interact with each other because they are all based on the same foundation. So, you could be sitting in a pub on the border of Wales & England and have the phones talking to each other. The original NHSX app for NHS England wouldn't work with the NHS Wales one, which means fewer contacts traced. It's the same as if every US state decided to write its own version and not use a standard base.

    I'm pretty sure NHSX were well aware of the Apple-Google API, but chose not to use it out of "British superiority" - something that only exists in the minds of the nutjobs in charge. It's why we still don't have the "world-beating" contact tracing app Boris Johnson promised by 1st June...
    caladanianRayz2016
  • Reply 8 of 12
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 11,421member
    The absence of effective testing and tracing are the biggest reasons why the UK and U.S. failed so badly in containing the virus.
    The countries like S. Korea and China who successfully and quickly contained the virus did so by quickly identifying infectious individuals and removing them from the streets, schools and businesses.   Here, we have thousands of Typhoid Mary's roaming our streets infecting others -- when all it takes is one.

    This app likely won't do much -- particularly in light of our highly ineffective testing -- where many tests take a week to come back. 

    For myself, on Tuesday I went for my annual checkup and, among the questions before they would see me was:   "Have you been in contact with anybody who tested positive?"  Had I been using this app I may have had to answer "yes -- but I have no idea who, where or when".   And then I would have been turned away.   So, why should I be turned away when 99% would be able to say "No!" simply because they never used the app.   If only 1% use it, it is worthless.

    It's just another example of our jumbled, disorganized, chaotic response to this pandemic.
  • Reply 9 of 12
    Technical question:  Doe it even matter which app one uses?  I thought as long as you had an app, you basically had a door into the contact tracing API party.
    edited August 2020
  • Reply 10 of 12
    fred1fred1 Posts: 1,122member
    mknelson said:
    fred1 said:
    Do these actually work? Has any country had success? I was under the impression that it requires 60% of the population taking part and the most any country has seen is around 20%. 

    Of course my fear is that people will stop taking the necessary measures because they’ll think they’re “covered” by this app. 
    That depends on what you mean by work. Any number of installations gives some chance of contact tracing, but they estimate around 60% before it's a useful way of reducing infections by catching cases before they can spread too far.

    As for installation numbers: it's hard to find a current metric. All the articles I found were 3 weeks old or older, but the Republic of Ireland had installations equivalent to 37% of the population by July 21 and their app had only come out 2 weeks earlier.

    Bebble: Ireland (Northern and Republic of) both have API based apps with cross border support.
    That’s what I mean by work: when you mention these apps ‘reduce infection by catching cases . . . “. What I’ve been told by friends who live in countries where these apps are in use (e.g. Australia) is that they don’t have to worry about catching the virus because the app will tell them if they’re ever in contact with anyone who has it. It’s this false sense of security that concerns me. Unless enough people are using it, it can’t be effective. 
    edited August 2020
  • Reply 11 of 12
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,784member
    beeble42 said:
    So no app for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?
    Quoting Ted Lasso - "How many countries are there in your country". "Four".
    I emigrated from the UK 30 years ago so out of touch.  Yorkshire didn't secede then?
  • Reply 12 of 12
    Technical question:  Doe it even matter which app one uses?  I thought as long as you had an app, you basically had a door into the contact tracing API party.
    If the apps are compatible. They are working on this. But the underlying API only allows it and does not guarantee compatibility. 
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