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Google, Apple build COVID-19 notifications straight into phones this month

September 1, 2020

Google (GOOG +0.9%, GOOGL +0.8%) and Apple (AAPL +2.8%) are building a COVID-19 notification system straight into smartphones – eliminating the need for a separate app, and ramping up a new weapon in the effort to track exposure to the novel coronavirus.

Future versions of iOS and Android will feature the new system that previously required an app made by a public health authority.

But now the system will use Bluetooth signals from phones that have opted in to find out how closely and for how long two phones were near each other, without collecting location or identity data, according to the companies.

A user that tests positive for COVID-19 would generate a push notification to other participating phones saying they may have been exposed to the virus.

The ability to opt in to the system without installing a separate app is expected to increase adoption of an approach that depends on a large network to work correctly.

The new software is coming in iOS 13.7 for iPhones, due out Tuesday, and in Android updates coming out this month.

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