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US University Developing COVID-19 Tracker Inspired By Apple's 'Find My' Feature

In the US, MIT researchers are developing a system that would allow tracing contacts of COVID-19 patients without hampering the privacy of an individual.


A team led by MIT researchers and including experts from many institutions is developing a system that would allow tracing contacts of COVID-19 patients without hampering privacy of an individual. According to a release by MIT, the system relies on short-range Bluetooth signals emitted from people’s smartphones, known as 'chirps' and then scan the database to see if any of those chirps match the ones picked up by their phones. If there’s a match, a notification will inform that person that they may have been exposed to the virus and will include information from public health authorities on the next steps to take. 

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The system is inspired by Apple's 'Find My' feature that already has the ability to advertise its presence to other devices via Bluetooth. Apple’s “Find My” feature, for example, uses chirps from a lost iPhone or MacBook to catch the attention of other Apple devices, helping the owner of the lost device to eventually find it. 

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"Find My inspired this system. If my phone is lost, it can start broadcasting a Bluetooth signal that’s just a random number; it’s like being in the middle of the ocean and waving a light. If someone walks by with Bluetooth enabled, their phone doesn’t know anything about me; it will just tell Apple, ‘Hey, I saw this light," Marc Zissman, the associate head of MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s Cyber Security and Information Science Division and co-principal investigator of the project was quoted as saying on university website.

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Coronavirus outbreak

The deadly coronavirus infection has claimed more than 95,700 lives across the world and has infected over 16,05,000 people globally since it first broke out in December 2019. China was the most affected country until last month before Italy and Spain surpassed it to record the most number of deaths anywhere in the world due to COVID-19. The United States, France, the United Kingdom, and Iran have also overtaken China in terms of the COVID-19 death toll. The virus is believed to have originated from a seafood market in China's Wuhan city, the epicentre of the disease, where animals were reportedly being traded illegally.

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(Image Credit: Christine Daniloff, MIT)

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