Contact-tracing app: First version worked on more phones

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Contact-tracing app: First version worked on more phones

By Rory Cellan-Jones
Know-how correspondent

Associated Subjects

  • Coronavirus pandemic

picture captionThe unique contact-tracing app was shelved after its trial on the Isle of Wight, however its creators have continued to work on it

The unique NHS Covid-19 app, which was shelved, would have labored on a bigger variety of handsets than the app which launched in England and Wales this week, I’ve found.

VMware Pivotal, the agency behind it, has simply revealed its software program code.

It reveals that it really works on 97.5% of handsets, and offers extra correct measurements of contacts between customers.

One knowledgeable instructed me the primary app was higher – however VMware Pivotal says it doesn’t want to compete.

The brand new app does not work with a wide range of older telephones, together with iPhones made earlier than 2015, and Android telephones not operating the Android 6.zero working system or above.

It may well additionally generate false readings of shut contacts in a 3rd of circumstances.

“In comparison with model two of the NHS app that we’re utilizing now, this app seems to have a major benefit when it comes to distance-measuring accuracy, at the least as much as about eight metres,” mentioned Prof Alan Woodward, a pc scientist at Surrey College.

VMware Pivotal was contracted by the well being service’s digital division NHSX to work on the unique contact-tracing app, which was trialled on the Isle of Wight in Might.

In June it was shelved as a result of the app, developed with out the co-operation of Apple and Google, failed to choose up contacts between iPhones once they had been asleep.

Beneath the administration of Baroness Harding’s Check and Hint organisation, a brand new workforce began work on an app utilizing the Apple Google privacy-focused toolkit, which had already been adopted by many different international locations.

  • NHS Covid-19 app hits one million downloads

‘We’re all buddies’

However engineers at VMware carried on creating the Bluetooth expertise behind their app and consider they’ve improved it, going some technique to mitigating the issue with detecting iPhones and making the measurement of distance between telephones much more correct.

On Thursday, the corporate published the code behind what it calls its Herald Bluetooth Protocol on Github, the open-source software program platform.

However VMware insists that it’s not attempting to reopen the argument about which expertise the NHS app ought to use.

It says it has been speaking to Apple and Google, and the hope is that they’ll take some features of the Herald Bluetooth system to enhance their expertise, which nearly all of authorities contact tracing apps use.

The corporate additionally factors out that the Apple Google system is just obtainable to governments, so companies comparable to cruise ships or workplace buildings would possibly want to develop their very own apps utilizing the Herald expertise.

“The very last thing we would like this to be seen as is adversarial,” an engineer at VMware mentioned, insisting there was no rivalry with the workforce that constructed the ultimate model of the NHS app.

“It is a entire bunch of individuals worldwide working collectively. We’re all buddies.”

Prof Woodward mentioned that whereas the VMware software program was prone to be simpler than apps based mostly on the Apple/Google API, “it retains the privateness points mentioned on the outset of constructing these apps”.

Apple and Google have mentioned they’re analyzing an improve to their system which ought to enhance its accuracy in measuring distance. That will result in higher efficiency for all international locations utilizing the platform, together with the NHS Covid-19 app.

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