Covid -19 Contact Tracing Is Coming on Your Smartphone

Yes, it is coming for your iPhone and Android smartphones. As a matter of fact, some of the features have already been available in iOS 13.5 and above for the iPhone that was released in May 2020. Google and Apple are working with public health organizations on contact-tracing apps.

iPhone and Android Header

Yes, it is coming for your iPhone and Android smartphones. As a matter of fact, some of the features have already been available in iOS 13.5 and above for the iPhone that was released in May 2020. Google and Apple are working with public health organizations on contact-tracing apps.

The piece that is missing, for now, is authorized apps from your health authorities. This is where you’ll report any sickness. Apple and Google are not releasing apps; they are collaborating to allow these apps to work across iOS and Android to collect data and send out alerts.

The following guidelines are for the iPhone. Android devices will be similar.

This is for iPhone and Android smartphones. Screenshots are from the iPhone

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What Is Contact Tracing

Conventional contact tracing is a technique used by public health authorities to measure and slow the spread of infectious diseases. It requires manually gathering information from infected individuals about the people they have previously been in contact with. These people can then be notified by public health authorities to take appropriate safety measures, such as undertaking self-quarantine and getting tested to break the chain of transmission. While this process will continue to be important to contact tracing efforts, systems that are being developed can alleviate some of the challenges with this process.

First there is a significant organizational burden from a manual process, as many public health workers are needed to perform these tasks. Second, the process can be slow as it requires finding and interviewing infected individuals and then reaching out and talking to their high risk contacts; all of whom may not be able to remember or know all of the people that they came in contact with in the past days to weeks.

The contact tracing is called “COVID-19 Exposure Logging” and is automatically turned off. When contact tracing apps are installed, you can enable the feature.

Setting Up On iPhone

First, launch Settings. Refer to below image:

Contact Tracing 1
The Settings icon

Next, scroll down to the Privacy option and tap it. See below image:

Contact Tracing 2
The Privacy option

Now, tap the Health option. See following image:

Contact Tracing 3
The Health option

You wil see the COVID-19 Exposure Logging option; just tap it. Refer to below image:


Contact Tracing 4
COVID-19 Exposure Logging option

How It Works

Once enabled, users’ devices will regularly send out a beacon via Bluetooth that includes a random Bluetooth identifier; basically, a string of random numbers (IDs) that are not tied to a user’s identity and change every 10-20 minutes for additional protection. Other phones will be listening for these beacons and broadcasting theirs as well. When each phone receives another beacon, it will record and securely store that beacon on the device. Refer to below diagram:

Contact Tracing Diagram, 1
Contact Tracing Diagram

At least once per day, the system will download a list of the keys for the beacons that have been verified as belonging to people confirmed as positive for COVID-19. Each device will check the list of beacons it has recorded against the list downloaded from the server. If there is a match between the beacons stored on the device and the positive diagnosis list, the user may be notified and advised on steps to take next. See below diagram:

Contact Tracing Diagram 2
Contact Tracing Diagram

Active Apps

Now, scroll down to the Active App section. Here you will find your installed apps that works with contact tracing. Once available from local, state or federal authorities, you will need to install the apps then they will appear here. (As of this writing, there is one app available from Center for Disease Control; for a list of States that will participate or have an app available, click here . See below image:

Contact Tracing 5
Active Apps for contact tracing that are installed

For these apps to work, you will need your phone’s Bluetooth and location tracking features turned on, though your actual physical location is not tracked; the apps will not know where in the world you are or how many times you have left the house today. They’ll only know which random IDs your phone has come into contact with.

Check for Exposure

To see if the option is working, tap on Exposure Checks. See following image:

Contact Tracing 6
Accessing Exposure Checks option

Now, you will see the following image about any exposure within the last 14 days. Refer to below image:

Contact Tracing 7
Checking to see if you have been exposed

The Fine Print

Now, tap the Back button then tap on the Learn More blue link. See below image:

Contact Tracing 8
Accessing the Terms andConditions

Information on Exposure Notifications & Privacy terms and conditions will be displayed. See following image:

Contact Tracing 9
The Terms and Conditions for contact tracing and exposure

I have found TechSavvy.Life blog posts extremely helpful. Check them out for posts on smart phone apps, Macs and PCs!<

I Would Like to Hear From You

Please feel free to leave a comment. I would love hearing from you. Do you have a computer or smart device tech question? I will do my best to answer your inquiry. Please mention the device, app and version that you are using. To help us out, you can send screenshots of your data related to your question.

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Author: Raymond

I am Raymond Oglesby, an Information Technology (IT) specialist with 30 years in the field. I have taught Microsoft Applications and troubleshot computers in 15 countries and many States. My career was focused on mainframes and desktops from application development to implementation. I have written hundreds of programs for various architectures. I decided to start a blog to share my knowledge and experiences with you. I plan on updating this blog at least twice a week about smart phone apps to Windows. Please feel free to leave a Comment or Tweet. I would love to hear from you. Do you have a computer tech question? I will do my best to answer your inquiry. Please mention the app and version that you are using. To help me out, you can send screenshots of your data related to your question.

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