Covid-19: Why Apple’s “Locate” Function App is Used

MIT is working on the tracking system at the heart of post-containment applications, and it is Apple’s Locate function that is used as a model. The goal is to create a protocol that respects the anonymity of people, but also that allows them to alert people they meet in the event of infection.

In France, the “ StopCovid  ” application  is not yet ready, but we already know that it will use Bluetooth technology to allow people in contact with a coronavirus patient to be alerted on their smartphone . At the prestigious MIT, we are working on this type of technology, and we have created in collaboration with several universities and institutions, the PACT for ”  Private Automatic Contact Tracing  “.

It is an autonomous and proximity protocol that relies on short-range Bluetooth signals. The idea is to create a system that is both “manual”, but also completely confidential, and universal, capable of working on all smartphones. ”  Apple’s Locate function inspired this system,” said Marc Zissman, head of the Cyber ​​Security and Information Science division at MIT Lincoln Laboratory . ” When my phone is lost, it can start broadcasting a Bluetooth signal which is just a random number . It’s like being in the middle of the ocean and waving a light. If someone goes with Bluetooth on, their phone doesn’t know anything about me, but it will just say to Apple, “Hey, I saw that light. “

Like a beacon that emits permanently

Concretely, the Locate (or Find My ) function from Apple allows you to find an iPhone , AirPods or Macbook lost from another Apple device thanks to Bluetooth signals. The point is that it works without GPS , Wi-Fi or 4G . It is Bluetooth, like a beacon, which continues to transmit signals. Applied to the coronavirus epidemic , this system would make it possible to store in its smartphone all the Bluetooth signals emitted by the owners of the application. Exactly as when the Locate function keeps track of Apple devices.

If a person tests Covid-19 positive , they can upload the list of “signals” their phone has sent in the past 14 days to a database , and pass it on to people who have approached. they. If there is a match, a notification will inform that person that they may have been exposed to the virus and will offer information from public health authorities on the next steps to follow. Everything remains perfectly anonymous and confidential since the signal sent is only a series of random numbers, and therefore does not identify the person.