Linux Foundation announces open source exposure notification apps initiative to combat COVID-19

The project will use the Google Apple Exposure Notification system to support public health authority's testing, tracing, and isolation practices.

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Image: iStockphoto/Elenabs

The Linux Foundation introduced its latest project that uses open source technologies to help public health authorities (PHAs) fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The Linux Foundation Public Health (LFPH) initiative, announced on Monday, focuses on the use of open source exposure notification applications. 

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

With applications based on the Google Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) system, LFPH aims to support every step of the PHA's testing, tracing, and isolation journey, according to a press release.

"To catalyze this open source development, Linux Foundation Public Health is building a global community of leading technology and consulting companies, public health authorities, epidemiologists, and other public health specialists, privacy and security experts, and individual developers," said Dan Kohn, LFPH general manager, in the release. 

"While we're excited to launch with two very important open source projects, we think our convening function to enable collaboration to battle this pandemic may be our biggest impact," Kohn added.

LFPH is working alongside seven key partners: Cisco, doc.ai, Geometer, IBM, NearForm, Tencent, and VMware. The initiative focuses on two key applications—COVID Shield and COVID Green—which are being deployed in Canada, Ireland, and several US states.

COVID Shield and COVID Green 

COVID Shield was created by a volunteer team of more than 40 developers from Shopify and is working toward being deployed in Canada. The app is a free exposure notification solution with the mission of helping Canadians safely return to work, according to the COVID Shield homepage.

COVID Shield is not directly available for download, but is instead offered as a reference point for local  public health authorities to build their own app. 

The mobile app is intended to run in the background with no user interaction after onboarding. Via Bluetooth, the app collects and shares random IDs with nearby phones that have COVID Shield installed. If a user tests positive for the coronavirus, they  can anonymously share their data so others can be aware of exposure. 

COVID Green is another coronavirus tracker app developed by NearForm as a part of the Irish government's response to the pandemic, according to the release.

Since its launch two weeks ago, the app has been adopted by more than one-third of the country's adults. 

Both apps are available for other PHAs and IT partners to customize and use, and they will be joined by other open source projects hosted by LFPH, according to the release.

Last week, LFPH hosted representatives from nearly every country who are building a GAEN app during its online GAEN Symposium. During the symposium, attendees discussed some of  the difficult issues PHAs are facing and how GAEN apps could help.

As stated in a press release from Google and Apple, "Traditional methods of contact tracing are critical to containing the spread of infection. Technology can support and augment these efforts by allowing public health authorities to quickly notify people who may have been exposed to a person who has contracted COVID-19, including those the person might not know directly. This starts with Exposure Notifications on your smartphone, which enable contact tracing apps to send you a notification if you've likely been exposed to COVID-19." 

LFPH has also created a landscape that allows for the tracking of open and closed source applications in the COVID-19 response ecosystem,  as well as the where applications are in their rollouts around the world.

For more, check out Digitizing coronavirus contact tracing is essential for reopening the country. Here are the details on TechRepublic.     

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