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Engineers at University of Guelph develop COVID-19 tracing app

Developers say it provides greater accuracy and privacy
20160202 University of Guelph 02 KA
University of Guelph file photo. Kenneth Armstrong/GuelphToday

Engineers at the University of Guelph have developed the Smart Contact Tracing app that will help limit the spread of COVID-19.

Users download the app onto their smartphone, which can identify when they are in close proximity (two metres) of another user who may have the virus.

"If one of the two participants, later on, figure out they been infected with COVID-19, then the other person will get a notification that they have been in close proximity of someone with COVID-19," said Petros Spachos, Associate Professor, School of Engineering, University of Guelph.

The app uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology, which works great if participants have the phone in their hands, however, if the line of sight is compromised, the performance will get impacted.

"If we are sitting two metres apart, and we hold the smartphones in our hands, the smartphone is going to detect that we are within two metres ... now if I put my smartphone in my pocket ... the app is going to detect that the distances between us are around three to four metres ... and the reason for that is your clothes, or my clothes, your body mass, or my body mass they block the signal, so the estimation is really bad ... which gives us the problem known as false negative." said Spachos.

The app is completely reliant of someone's COVID-19 test results, which means if a user does not report that they tested positive for the virus, the app will not show a user they are in close proximity of someone caring the virus.

"Just say you got tested and were positive, and you actually report it, then users will know they are in close proximity with a person with COVID-19," said Spachos.

The system does not reveal any information about users, or where interactions occurred, as privacy is one of the key factors for developers.



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