Standards boost for Covid-19 contact tracing apps

June 18, 2020 //By Nick Flaherty
ETSI has set up a group to look at interoperability of Covid-19 contact tracing apps
ETSI's E4P group is working on interoperability of Covid-19 contact tracing app technology

The development of Covid-19 contact tracing apps has been a significant challenge. The UK’s track and trace app using a central database has been abandoned, while Apple and Google have negotiated a version that works on iOS and Android.

European telecoms standardisation group ETSI has also been working on technology for backward-compatible and interoperable proximity tracing applications. These are used to track infections by helping to break viral transmission chains.

The first Bluetooth-based European application was launched in France on 2 June (StopCovid) and was downloaded more than 600,000 times on that day both from Apple Store and Google Play (Android), according to the French government. A pilot in Switzerland has had positive results, particularly on the privacy settings, and the authorities expect to roll it in out next week.

However many of the track and trace apps have issues with the use of Bluetooth for measuring distance, which could be solved with phase-ranging technology in the latest chips from Dialog Semiconductor:  WIRELESS RANGING SDK ENABLES ACCURATE BLE-BASED DISTANCE MEASUREMENT

ETSI’s “Europe for Privacy-Preserving Pandemic Protection” group (E4P) started last month with 50 representatives from 36 organisations. These range from government and EC representatives, through vendors, operators and research bodies to ethics, legal and cybersecurity players. The group aims to have a report out by the end of the summer.

The group is comparing existing contact tracing systems is underway and will examine the similarities and differences of the various available or upcoming approaches. This will cover key issues such as interoperability, security aspects, different device platforms and privacy aspects.

The interoperability framework allow both centralized and decentralized modes, working with ROBERT, NHSX, DP3T, DESIRE, ProntoC2 and other applications/protocols as well as the different device platforms.

The SwissCovid contact tracing app being trialled in Switzerland is based on the Google/Apple API and is part of the DP-​3T project by ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne, working together with international

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