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Apple launches iOS 13.7 with support for the new automatic COVID-19 notification system

Apple released iOS 13.7 on Tuesday, adding support for a new exposure alert system to drive COVID-19 tracking. The system is an extension of the existing coronavirus contact tracking efforts, but it removes the burden on states of having to build a dedicated app. News of the new software framework was first announced earlier today in a joint statement from Apple and Google.

This native support was expected, as announced when the API exposure alert – developed in collaboration with Apple and Google – was unveiled in April. But at that time we did not know exactly when it would come.

This is how it works, from The Vergehis report on the announcement:

Under the new system, participating health departments will put together a configuration file so that they can set risk scores, redirect users to their specific health department website and change the recommendation to users who have been exposed. Once the configuration is complete, iOS and Android can automatically generate the required software, even if the two operating systems handle the task differently. In Android, the configuration file will automatically generate a custom Android app, while iOS will incorporate the settings in the contact system at the OS level.

More broadly, the OS-powered contact tracking system is designed to inform someone when they may have been in contact with another person who was later diagnosed with COVID-19, primarily through a complex BLE Beacon protocol. Support for the protocol was first added to iOS in May with the release of iOS 13.5. But at the time, any state needed to have an app developed by a public health agency that used the API. Now, however, states can simply provide Apple and Google with the necessary information, and the automatically generated software framework will take care of the rest.

Apple and Google have clarified that existing apps, of which there are six, will continue to work, and support for interoperability between states is built into the new framework to allow contact tracking of state lines. The first official app that supported the exposure alert system debuted in Virginia earlier in August. The University of Alabama in Birmingham also launched a closed pilot for an exposure alert app last month.

Image: Apple

“As the next step in our work with public health authorities on exposure alerts, we make it easier and faster for them to use the exposure alert system without having to build and maintain an app,” Apple and Google said in a joint statement today. “Exposure alerts Express provides another option for public health authorities to supplement their existing contact tracking operations with technology without compromising the project’s main principles of user privacy and security. Existing apps that use the Exposure Notification API will be compatible with the Exposure Notifications Express, and we are committed to supporting public health authorities that have distributed or are building custom apps. ”

iOS 13.7 is available for download now.

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