Just as Latvia is set to become the first country to have an app that takes advantage of the Apple and Google Exposure Notification API, Switzerland overtook Latvia with 'SwissCovid'.
The app is Switzerland's own version of the coronavirus tracer that is powered by Apple-Google 'contact tracing' technology.
Switzerland was planning for a mass rollout, but the report explained that in Switzerland, members of parliament must first debate and approve the scheme before it is offered to the general public.
For this reason, the app has been initially made available only to select essential workers, like members of the Swiss army, hospital workers and civil servants.
As of today, employees at @EPFL, @ETH_en, @vbs_ddps and some hospitals and cantonal administrations can download the digital proximity tracing application #SwissCovid. This large-scale pilot paves the way for public availability by mid-June. https://t.co/E9hl43g8Ca #COVID19 #DP3T pic.twitter.com/Yqrags7zMg
— EPFL (@EPFL_en) May 25, 2020
SwissCovid was developed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) and ETC Zurich.
According to the report, SwissCovid automates contact tracing on users' smartphones in order to detect the risk of the novel 'COVID-19' coronavirus contagion, when two people are close to each other for a considerable time.
It uses Bluetooth technology to allow users' smartphone to communicate with each other anonymously.
If a person tests positive for coronavirus, everyone with whom that person was in contact in previous days – within two metres of proximity for more than 15 minutes – will be alerted via the app.
This way, the person can isolate themselves and get tested. This in turn, should help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The Swiss authorities say the decentralized SwissCovid app is the first in the world to use the updates from Apple and Google.
Before its formal launch, the app experienced a glitch, in which the public was given a brief access to the Swiss-made contact tracing app despite it being in the testing phase and yet to be approved by parliament.
At the time, the 'DP-3T' SwissCovid app was openly available in the Google Play Store for several hours when access should have been restricted.
A spokesman for the EPFL, which co-designed the app, said the mistake had been rectified. But there was not way of telling how many unauthorized people had exactly downloaded the app.
But that shouldn't affect the effectiveness of the test phase.
“This digital tracing will not replace protective measures, but it is the best way to control the evolution of the epidemic,” said Alain Berset, Federal Councillor at the Swiss Department of Interior.
According to a report, Apple said that a handful of U.S. states and 22 countries across five continents had requested and received access to the Exposure Notification API. At this time, some countries are already having their own tracers, like the TraceTogether app for users in Singapore.
However, Apple-Google framework should be more powerful, as the two conquers most of the smartphone market, meaning that their solution could reach at least 3 billion people worldwide.