This Is What a Contact Tracing App Could Look Like
Here’s how a team of veteran designers is working together to help stop the spread of Covid-19
Numerous teams around the world have started building apps that can help with tracing the contacts of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus. This would allow health agencies to test and potentially isolate these people at an early stage before they can infect others.
Building a contact tracing app, however, is only part of the problem: People must understand both the importance of such a tool as well as how to use it. To help with that, we built an open-source user interface that’s free for anyone to use, with the aim of providing a design that is inclusive, easy to implement, and universally accessible to the public.
There is a growing consensus around the use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), a technology available on most smartphones, as an effective tool to anonymously track the people with whom you have been in close proximity. We previously wrote a post trying to convince Apple and Google to collaborate in order to make this a viable option. To our delight, they soon announced they would do exactly that by launching privacy-friendly contact tracing APIs at the end of April. Bluetooth has many shortcomings, and it’s far from perfect. But, until a different approach gains traction, we’ll assume Bluetooth will be used by the majority of contact tracing apps.
Most initiatives so far have primarily focused on solving the technical challenges. For contact tracing to have a meaningful impact, however, there are several other problems and broader societal questions that need to be answered.
One of these challenges is distribution and adoption. Contact tracing apps will only have a useful impact if they are adopted by the majority of the population — according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, researchers believe at least 60% of the population needs to participate for them to be successful. If usage is voluntary, this means that people will have to understand how the app works and how it benefits and impacts them before they will actively start downloading and using it.