Governments around the world are looking to mobile contact tracing apps as part of their post-COVID-19 lockdown strategies and some of the biggest global tech companies including Apple and Google are working together to support these initiatives.
These opt-in applications can create a timeline of people coming into contact with COVID-19 patients by using masked personal identifiers and recording the time they are in close proximity. To work, the apps will require a significant percentage of a country’s population to voluntarily install them and to be most effective, they should also be cross-border solutions. In Europe, the EU’s privacy watchdog has already called for a single pan-EU app.
While one of the significant benefits of the collaboration between Apple and Google will be interoperability between the iOS and Android operating systems, there are many challenges to overcome. The early apps are currently using Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE) and Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) technology for proximity tracking. However, experience has shown that potential limitations in BTLE can lead to inaccuracies in locating people / smartphones that may have been in contact within the two metre and 15-minute vectors, potentially reducing the effectiveness of the application.
As more people use the app, the continuous polling methodology in standard BTLE could lead to some people not being registered. And in some situations, several sub-networks could be created, causing more than one person to have inaccurate registrations in their zone.
Wyld mesh technology was originally developed for different use cases but has inherent capabilities that enhance BTLE and improve the accuracy of locating people within the proximity zone. One of the concepts of the mesh technology is multi-hop, which can create a very robust network of phone-to-phone connectivity to significantly increase the probability of making connections with everyone in a proximity zone.
Improving location capability
One of the other issues in early contact tracing applications is the reliance on the Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) methodology to determine if other smartphones are within the two-metre proximity zone by measuring the strength of the signal between devices. As such, you may know which smartphones are in your proximity zone, but not where they are relative to each other.
Wyld collective positioning technology aims to make it possible to relatively position each smartphone to each other and create a dynamic geofence that bounds you to your own personal two-metre proximity zone as you move around. The advantage of relative positioning with multi-hop mesh is that you understand how far away another smartphone / person might be, but also other potential nearby groups that could be affected.
Wyld is currently talking to NHSX as well as engaging with other potential tech company partners to demonstrate the value of mesh technology in these critical contact tracing apps.