Apple/Google contact tracing API fails to work on public transport, new study finds

api not working on public transport rect

A new study from Trinity College in Dublin found that Apple and Google’s COVID19 API fails to measures the distance between users on public transport.

As reported by VICE News, the group tested the API on volunteers who switched their seats on a Dublin tram every 1 minute. They tested the API with pre-set rules developed by Italy, Swiss, and Germany to test how accurately it would detect the distance between users. What they found is that detection was “similar to that of triggering notifications by randomly selecting from the participants in our experiments, regardless of proximity.”

In easier terms, the API failed to detect the proper distance between users due to their confined space. The technology developed by Google and Apple relies on Bluetooth connections on devices to measure distance and notify users if they have possibly been exposed to COVID19. One drawback of using Bluetooth is its accuracy amongst different devices depends on varying hardware.

Older handsets may feature Bluetooth 4.0, while newer ones feature Bluetooth 5.0 which will yield in more accurate and precise detection. As VICE News also points out, Bluetooth signals can reflect off the metallic walls and objects within trams, trains, and other means of public transport, weakening its accuracy.

The new study is alarming given the fact that public transport is typically the most crowded places, and is likely where COVID19 could spread due to tight spaces. While contact tracing apps are not entirely mainstream just yet, more countries are adopting the technology, but studies like this will only cause governments to question if the development of the app is truly worth it.

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Sami started falling in love with Apple in 2010 with the iPhone 4S. As a registered developer, he deeply admires the world of Apple. Sami is an aspiring journalist, writer, and actor. He also has devoted his life to sharing his passion and knowledge with others around the world.