Test, Track & Trace…
Is this app a Government backed Red Herring?
The UK Government has made a big deal out of its latest venture in preventing the spread of the Covid-19 virus with the launch of an app that is designed to help ease the lockdown restrictions that are currently in place.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the app, called test, track and trace aims to map the people that coronavirus sufferers come into contact with, so it can work out who else is at risk. So how exactly does it work and will it be as effective as they say it will be in stopping the spread of Covid-19?
So how does the app work?
The app uses Bluetooth technology to log everyone you come into contact with. If you or any of these people have coronavirus symptoms, it alerts everyone you’ve been in contact with.
The app runs in the background at all times and you need to keep Bluetooth on for it to work. You also have to enter your postcode and allow the app to give notifications. If you report that you’ve had coronavirus symptoms, the app tells you to book a test.
It then finds the people you have been in contact with over the past 28 days and tells them to self-isolate for 14 days and monitor their symptoms – in line with current Government coronavirus advice.
If your test comes back negative, the people you have been in contact with can come out of isolation. If you are positive for the virus, they have to continue to self-isolate for seven days.
We already know that contact tracing is an important tool in combating the virus, but applications to track peoples movements only serve to tell us where the virus has been and not where it is now. The Governments test and trace app is a white elephant, the whole idea is based on the premise that everyone is virus free, and that tests are readily available to everyone, they are forgetting that you can carry the virus for days without showing symptoms and that tests are still limited to essential workers or those over 65 (https://www.gov.uk/apply-coronavirus-test).
But the plan is also flawed in other ways.
First, in order for the app to work it requires a Bluetooth connection, as we all know Bluetooth is the perfect choice for creating proximity solutions and is used for point of interest (PoI) information, item finding as well as positioning systems such as real-time locating systems (RTLS) for asset tracking and indoor positioning systems (IPS). Bluetooth already powers wearable devices like fitness trackers and smart watches that monitors steps, exercise, activity, and sleep and is already used widely in the health sector to monitor diabetics, blood pressure etc.
However, the use of apps requires a smart phone and this is something that not everyone has, there are many in society that do not posess one, such as older people, those on low incomes, the homeless etc.
Secondly, the app requires the user to have it switched on at all times. The problem here is that the phones operating systems won’t allow applications to broadcast its ID via Bluetooth to surrounding devices when it’s running in the background and not in active use, this means that unless people have the NHS app running then phones wont be able to detect each other. It will however, work if people open the app, leave it open and keep their phones unlocked (which is risky). But if you close it and forget to reopen it, or the phone falls asleep, the app will not broadcast its ID and no other phones around you will register that you’ve been close by.
The app also requires a good signal in order to transmit the users data and as we all know there are many areas in the UK that have a very poor or no signal at all. Anyone that uses a mobile phone will tell you that there is limited transmission from inside some large buildings like warehouses and that reception is also limited on some forms of public transport.
Third, there are notable concerns over data security and who will have access to the data. No amount of assurances will ever convince me that the data will not be used in the future by the police or other government agencies to track people for other reasons.
There is also nothing to stop additional data being harvested and used for other purposes like marketing, all it takes is an update and we are all at the whim of the advertisers, you only have to think about buying a new microwave and an advert pops up on facebook.
But those aren’t the only drawbacks, the app assumes that we are virus free then alerts us if we have come into contact with an infected person (providing of course that the infected person has notified the app), this would be a great idea if it wasn’t for the fact that testing is very limited and by the time the results are known an infected person could have come into contact with dozens of people who in turn could have come into contact with dozens more, it will be like closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.
The app is called “TEST”, track and trace, but without the “TESTING” it is worthless, this is just another red herring thrown at us by the Government to cover up its inept handling of the outbreak.
In order for this system to work every person in the UK must have access to the test, key workers who are not showing symptoms need to be regularly tested to ensure that they are not infected or are a carrier, until that is done no amount of track and trace will be effective, and it will remain that way until testing is available for everyone or a vaccine has been found.
This app is not a shortcut to ending the lockdown, it is merely a way for the Government to track those already infected, now correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t we already doing that…
My advice for what it’s worth is to stay at home, if you have to go outside then observe social distancing and keep yourself and your family safe…