A new smartphone app will track whether someone has come into contact with a carrier of novel coronavirus. The eRouška app uses Bluetooth to track the users movements, and the hygiene station can contact the person by phone if they were in proximity of someone who later tested positive for the virus, even if it was just someone standing in the same line.
The application does not reveal who was infected, just that there was some contact with an anonymous person. Currently, the app is available for Android devices, but an iOS version is expected soon. It is also on available in the Czech language.
There are similar apps, such as Mapy.cz, but those rely on the user having mobile data turned on to maintain a constant internet connection. ERouška uses Bluetooth to register which other phones with the installed app it has been close to.
“Unlike other applications, eRouška does not track and collect your location information, but only anonymously detects which other users of the application you have come into close contact with. The application does not need an internet connection to work properly, so it works for example in the metro,” the eRouška website states.
The application was created by volunteers from the Covid19CZ group, under the auspices of the Czech Health Ministry. Data security is backed by independent experts.
To use the app, you register with a phone number. It does not have to be the same one that the app is installed on. Users then get a confirmation SMS with a code number to activate the app.
The success of the app relies on how many people use it. “The more that use eRouška, the better we will create a network that will protect us from each other and warn against risk. We cooperate with the Czech government and other organizations to get as many people as possible to use eRouška. Help us too. By installing the application, you can actively engage in the fight against coronavirus,” the app’s website states.
Once someone has been found to have been in contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus, health workers can try to track where that person has been and whom they have met with since exposure, even if those people don’t use the eRouška app.
“ERouška helps the staff of the hygiene station to identify potential virus carriers as effectively as possible and to ask them for isolation and caution for the necessary time. This will reduce the number of people infected and thus lower everyone’s risk of infection,” the website states.
The app tries to evaluate signal strength and duration of possible contacts. “The length of the contact is also relevant for evaluating the contact as risky —simply stopping at traffic lights is uninteresting,” the website states. Data is collected and processed according to European guidelines for data protection.
The eRouška app is part of the Smart Quarantine system, which is aimed at us8ing technology to contain the spread of coronavirus. The app is modeled on what was used in Singapore, where the infection rate has been well controlled. Over 1 million people there installed a similar app.