Using Indoor Navigation for Identifying People Contacted with the COVID Infected
The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has a global impact, and it is not only about health. The global economy and high technology are also affected by tectonic processes.
Adapting to a difficult situation, governments and organizations strive to create new mechanisms for controlling the spread of the virus. They are introducing technologies designed to limit the incidence of COVID-19 and thereby accelerate the lifting of restrictive measures worldwide.
Bluetooth is becoming relevant not only for indoor positioning but also for mass outdoor usage. The technology now meets the new global challenge.
How do they trace us?
Extensive measures are being taken in the world to monitor infections in real-time. For this, projects and government programs are launched that provide the so-called contact-tracing.
Smartphones are used to track the movement of people. The vast majority of devices allow the use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to record mutual contacts. Depending on the device, the power of the BLE can differ. For example, AirPods have an effective range of about 6 inches, while other beacons span tens of meters. The range of contact will depend on the regulatory policies of each country.
Upon contact, the devices transmit code fragments to each other, which contain their IDs. IDs are already stored in the health authorities’ databases. The integration allows application users to find out if they had contact with infected people and take the necessary actions to protect themselves.
Tracing functionality works at the application level, but in the future, it could also involve the OS level.
To activate BLE and start device tracking specific frameworks are used. Through them, devices switch to continuous monitoring mode and constantly log their close contacts with other devices. Then the logs are compared with the data from health authorities and in case there was a contact, an application notifies its user.
Around the situation, there is a big discussion on ethics and safety issues.
It is already known that some governments have resorted to some methods allowing to track citizens’ location, which violates their privacy.
There are data security issues as well. In order to sign up in particular apps, users are required to leave their personal information that may be compromised.
The Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT) framework, which is being developed in Europe, is accessing a centralized server to identify users by their personal data.
The measures taken in Argentina are worrying. People who violate a quarantine are forced to use an application that tracks their location.
According to CNBC, China’s government uses face recognition and drones in the streets. Moreover, they use the application to assess people’s health condition and regulate their access to public places by classifying users into three categories: green, yellow, or red. The experiment covers 200 cities across the country.
In the USA, the advertising industry is actively involved in tracking citizens’ movements. The data is supplied to local, state, and federal government organizations.
In Moscow, Russia, there are more than 100,000 cameras used for facial recognition. To move around the city, people have to receive their unique QR codes. Those without QR codes can be fined by the police.
Best practices and perspective solutions
On the other hand, there are successful examples.
The Czech Republic followed the example of Singapore. The open-source app called eRouška (eFacemask) was released recently by the local IT community.
A number of decentralized protocols that enhance privacy features and use anonymous keys instead of user’s identifiable information have been developed. The Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (DP-PPT / DP-3T) is a good example.
Remember, that the protocol is the fundamental but not the only element which underlies the app’s functionality. There are numerous SDKs you can use as well, and it’s crucial to choose the right supplier. The SDK shouldn’t violate the principles of confidentiality and privacy. We at Navigine, take care of these principles to provide comfortable and secure experience for every end-user.
On 10 April 2020, Google and Apple announced their joint project. The giants are about to start implementing the new OS-level technology based on BLE and cryptography. It will use decentralized protocols, such as DP-3T, for contact-tracing.
Recently, Germany declined the use of PEPP-PT protocol in favor of decentralized protocols, supported by Apple. We're looking forward to seeing if it could establish the large-scale transition to privacy-preserving technologies.
Choosing the right direction
The indoor positioning technologies are becoming demanded in a wider range of fields than we could even imagine. As a representative of the industry, our mission is to consider the global changes, providing security, and preserving the basic rights and freedoms of people around the world.
We do our best to help people and industries go through this great transformation safely and efficiently. Providing solutions for industries is our first priority these days. By tracking movements and reproducing the history of the interaction of the infected employee with others, you can prevent the disease from spreading and protect your staff.
You can find out more on how we apply the 3 key elements to help our industrial customers protect against COVID-19: wearable devices (BPPU, Goodwin, Smart bracelet, Smartphone, Wearable tags), positioning technologies (GNSS, BLE, Wi-FI, UWB) and communication technologies (GSM, Wi-Fi, LoRa).
Stay tuned with Navigine.