Switzerland launches world’s first contact tracing app using both Apple and Google’s tech

The team developing Switzerland’s coronavirus contact-tracing app says it has become the first to have launched a product incorporating a technology provided by Apple and Google. Members of the Swiss army, hospital workers and civil servants can now install the SwissCovid app ahead of a planned wider rollout.

Swiss authorities need to pass a vote before the app can be rolled out to the general population, but the “SwissCovid” app is now in its pilot phase and available to members of the army, hospital workers, and civil servants per the BBC report .

SwissCovid will use Bluetooth to exchange keys between phones. If a user tests positive for SARS-CoV-2, they can inform the app, which will alert other users if they were in close proximity (less than two meters) to the infected person for a prolonged period (more than 15 minutes).

Employees at EPFL, ETH Zurich, the Army and select hospitals and government agencies will be the first to test the Swiss app. This pilot phase is expected to last a few weeks. In the meantime, Swiss parliament must revise the law on epidemics in order to allow the app to be launched countrywide in mid-June.

“In our design, information is processed locally and all data are automatically deleted after 21 days. In addition, no user personal data is stored centrally, and contact tracing data never leaves the phone unless authorized by the user,” said Srdjan apkun, one of the app’s developers at ETH Zurich . The app has also been open-sourced, allowing cybersecurity experts to scrutinize it for any security flaws.

Apkun said the app is planned for a more wholesale rollout in June, but as the first app to use the Google/Apple API it needs time to take on board user feedback and weed out any “teething troubles.”

When Google and Apple rolled out their specialized “exposure notification” application program interface (API) earlier this month, they said 22 public health authorities had approached them to implement it in their own contact-tracing apps. A spokesperson for Apple declined to name the 22 countries to Business Insider “out of respect for the work being done by all the health authorities around the world.”

Some countries, including the UK and France , have elected to build their own contact-tracing apps rather than use the Google/Apple API so as to be able to centrally pool and analyze user data, which is prohibited for apps using the API although the UK reportedly started work on second app which does use the Google/Apple API after it ran into technical issues building its own.

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