Google touts COVID-19 exposure notification tech developed with Apple is helping

The technology has already been adopted by more than 50 countries, states, and regions.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Google has boasted that the Exposure Notifications System (ENS) it developed with Apple has shown "anecdotal signs" of the system is helping.

The Google-Apple ENS was developed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and was made available to public health agencies in May. This has since enabled the two companies to build apps on both Android phones and iPhones to help contain the respiratory disease.

According to Google production management senior director Steph Hannon, since launch, the ENS has been adopted by more than 50 countries, states, and regions.

Just last week, New Zealand announced it was adopting the tech as part of the NZ COVID Tracer app so that if an app user tests positive for COVID-19, they can choose to alert other app users who may have been exposed to the virus. Other app users can then receive an alert if they have been near that app user who tested positive for COVID-19.

"Research has revealed that exposure notifications can 'save lives at all levels of uptake', and showed that a staff dedicated to working on contact tracing combined with 15% of the population using exposure notifications could reduce infections by 15% and deaths by 11%," Hannon wrote in a blog post.

"In Ireland, early reports from their app indicated there were hundreds of EN notifications from people who had uploaded positive test results. A recent pilot in Spain showed that it could detect almost twice as many potential infections than manual contact tracing."

Underpinning the ENS, Hannon said, has been feedback from technical briefings by state public health organisations and epidemiologists including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC Foundation, and the Task Force for Global Health.

Hannon added to improve flexibility and support for US public health agencies, an express version of the ENS was developed so that authorities did not have to design their own apps.

"The goal of this project is to assist public health authorities in their efforts by enabling exposure notification in a privacy-preserving manner. We will continue to work with them to help you protect yourself and your community during this pandemic and we plan to keep you updated here with new information again next year," Hannon said.

In other Google news, the company has introduced Night Sight in Portrait mode for Pixel 4a 5G and 5 users. The new feature allows users to automatically capture low-light images where subjects are sharper, and backgrounds become "artistically" blurred. Google explained Night Sight uses machine learning to keep subjects sharp while it predicts the depth of the photo to blur the background.

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