Mobile app allows quick and anonymous contact tracing for COVID-19

A team of researchers, coordinated by the Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores, Tecnologia e Ciência (INESC TEC), with the support of the Instituto de Saúde Pública da Universidade do Porto (ISPUP), is developing a mobile application for fast and anonymous tracking of contagious networks by COVID-19 in Portugal.

The STAYAWAY app detects physical proximity between smartphones and informs the users who have been in the same space as someone who was infected with the new coronavirus in the last 14 days.

“This is a platform of voluntary use that informs users of a proximity occasion, occurred in the last 14 days, with someone who was confirmed as infected. It is a method that could extend and accelerate, while preserving the anonymity of those involved, the identification of the chains of transmission that the health authorities have carried out since the beginning of the pandemic.”, affirms José Manuel Mendonça, Chairman of the Board of Directors of INESC TEC.

It is estimated that the application could be for available for everyone by the end of next month, for Android and iOS, The user only has to instal it, not being necessary, for this purpose, to share any personal information.

Each phone broadcasts anonymous identifiers in its vicinity and stores locally the identifiers broadcast by the mobile phones it encounters. Although absolutely devoid of a relationship with the mobile phones that generated it and, consequently, with the users of those phone, this information will allow to detect the proximity to an infected person. A person who is confirmed has infected with COVID-19 will be able to publish online, with the legitimisation of the health authorities, its anonymous identifiers shared in the last 14 days. With this public information, each person’s app can easily assess autonomously if in the previous days was close to an infected person.

The use of the app is voluntary and non-intrusive. “In the case of a person who does not contract the disease and that has not been in contact with an infected person, the only interaction with the app will be its installation in the phone. But the more users there are, the more effective this application will be.”, adds José Manuel Mendonça.

The application fully complies the European and national data protection legislations.

The project was presented this Monday, April 27th, to the Ministers for Science, Technology and Higher Education and for Territorial Cohesion, Manuel Heitor e Ana Abrunhosa, respectively, in a session in the Reitoria da Universidade do Porto.

The app is being developed by INESC TEC and by ISPUP, with the collaboration of the Laboratórios Associados IT, INESC ID and LarSys and is supported by the Minho Advanced Computing Center (MACC), the Centro Nacional de Cibersegurança (CNCS), the Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda (INCM) and the initiative of the Nacional em Competências Digitais e.2030, Portugal INCoDe.2030.

Imagem: Pixabay/ Pexels

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