The recently launched NHS contact tracing app against COVID-19 has been dubbed an important milestone in the battle against the virus. But how does the app actually work? And ultimately, will it make a difference? Inside Telecom shares a few important facts everyone should know.
How can I download the NHS contact-tracing app?
The NHS app is made available on the Apple App store for iOS users or on the Play Store for Android users. To find and download the app, simply search ‘NHS COVID-19’ and it will be the first result.
After the download is complete, users will be presented with details about what the app does and a privacy notice. The app will ask for the usual permissions on your phone such as using Bluetooth to perform automatic contact tracing as well as the feature of receiving notifications if someone that you’ve been in contact with has tested positive or is displaying symptoms.
The next phase is providing the app with the first part of your postcode, which it will use in turn to show you the risk level around you in your local area. When visiting a venue such as a restaurant or a supermarket there might be a scannable QR code that allows you to check-in at the venue.
Does the NHS app track my location?
The direct answer here is no. The contact tracing app does not even use the GPS feature on your phone, meaning it can’t track your movements. The only thing the app will ask permission for is for using Bluetooth in the background – that is what essentially allows the contact-tracing process to work.
Does the app work on all smartphones?
No. Even though the app is available on iOS and Android, it doesn’t work on older handsets. People who can’t access the app are urged to use traditional alternatives instead.
The NHS contact tracing app requires iPhone users to be running the 13.5 version which was released last year but is available on devices several years older. The oldest compatible iPhone with the app is the 2015 iPhone 6s. As for Android users, the app requires version 6.0 (or higher) which was rolled out in 2015.
Am I obliged to download the App?
App use is completely voluntary but downloading it will help mitigate the spread of the virus.
Businesses have already started to display QR code posters that make it easier for people entering their facility to check in and scan. However, venues are expected to keep a paper log for anyone not using the app.
Will the contact tracing app actually make a difference?
The NHS app has been positioned as an aid in contact tracing efforts. Baroness Dido Harding NHS Test and Trace head has reiterated that the technology is not a silver bullet.
High-tech mobile labs hitting the streets of China
A team of researchers from Tsinghua University in affiliation with CapitalBio, have developed high-tech mobile labs equipped with advanced medical and communication technologies. The latest innovation will be hitting the streets of South China’s Zhuhai with orders coming in from Shenyang and Qingdao.
Among the worst aspects of testing – besides having a 6-inch swab in one’s nasal – is getting there and waiting in line for a turn. For many, the fear of driving though or sitting in what may seem to be a virus hotspot, may be enough to discourage people from opting for a test.
The biggest hurdle is that all those samples must later be taken in bulk to adequately equipped testing labs, usually far away from the testing facilities. Thus, the process is made riskier and result processing made less efficient, which may also prolong the risk of transmission.
“It realizes the point-of-care rapid testing and is particularly useful for frontier ports, communities and villages,” said Lead Researcher Cheng Jing, also a professor at Tsinghua University.
A mobile lab would solve both of these problems, with test results obtained within 45 minutes, and messaged to people’s phone devices. According to Cheng, the high-tech mobile labs are equipped with sampling robots, automatic microfluidic chip analyzers, virus deactivators and even a 5G communication system for fast and effective reporting.
The lab is capable of operating to full effect with only 3 staff members including the driver. Cheng added that employees need only go through a 2-hour training program to effectively operate the entire system.
“One person is responsible for operating the sampling robots”, said Liangbin Pan, Vice President and CTO at CapitalBio, “while the other is tasked with adding inactivated samples into detection chips and reading the test results on the computer.”
High-tech mobile labs seem like an inevitable development in these challenging times. The ability to use technology to bypass physical hurdles and increase efficiency is a trademark of Chinese innovators, as we’ve seen throughout the pandemic.
Geographic information systems: advancing technology for COVID-19 response
With technology leaping to the forefront of the battle against the pandemic, Inside Telecom examines GIS technology, one of the most recent developments to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
Geographic information systems, or more commonly known as GIS technology, combines location with real time or static data. In turn, the technology analyzes, manages, collects and shares data to achieve what is known as location intelligence.
Deeply rooted in the science of geography, GIS technology incorporates several types of data. It has the ability to utilize large data sets from various sources and represent them meaningfully in real time dashboards, analytical tools, and application.
Visualizations can be produced immediately, which shed light and give insights into critical cases. Geographic information systems can be used for several problems and has the potential to better handle complex situations with a purpose of enabling smarter decision making.
Public Health Agencies and governments have started to use GIS technology in addressing COVID-19 issues. On a global level, geographic information system technology is being used to show the spread of the virus over time and across the world. It is also being applied in contact tracking and tracing.
GIS technology can also forecast health needs and spikes, and can support the delivery of vital PPE and can facilitate the delivery of medicine to the elderly population. In addition, mapping data is being implemented to provide local authorities with key information. It can tailor data and general reports regarding local demographic, health, and economic health statistics.
Government use of geographic information system technology has additional communication purposes. By sharing a situation assessment through maps, apps and dashboards the public can aid in locating more cases. Local governments are also producing story maps that keep citizens up to date with all that’s going on around them.
GIS technology is also used to communicate emergency information about public notices, school closures, and other pandemic related measures.
The latest COVID-19 information hub
The World Health Organization and the nonprofit administration of Wikipedia have announced their commitment towards making critical COVID-19 information accessible to everyone.
The latest collaboration between the two organizations will ensure equitable, free, and available information amidst the ongoing pandemic. The information will be available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. This allows any outside organization to freely share the COVID-19 information on their own platforms, further spreading essential knowledge.
“Access to information is essential to healthy communities and should be treated as such,” said CEO at the Wikimedia Foundation, Katherine Maher. “This becomes even more clear in times of global health crises when information can have life-changing consequences. All institutions, from governments to international health agencies, scientific bodies to Wikipedia, must do our part to ensure everyone has equitable and trusted access to knowledge about public health, regardless of where you live or the language you speak.”
In addition, people can also access Wikimedia Commons digital multimedia library, containing videos, infographics, and other public health-related content. Now, Wikipedia’s 250,000 independent editors and volunteers can be used to push more extensive Covid-19 information. There are currently over five thousand virus-related articles, with many Wiki volunteers able to translate the content into numerous languages.
Wikipedia and WHO teams have been busy tackling and fending off misinformation, which has caused significant damage over the past few months. Users can now access the WHO myth busters’ infographic series.
As one of the most viewed sources on the internet and around the globe, Wikipedia has the power to hold its COVID-19 information up high for ‘those in the back’, so to speak. Coupled with the reach, resources, and expertise of the WHO, this collaboration could make a significant difference in protecting the vulnerable in the coming years.
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