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Apple and Google's contact tracing API could be dangerous

By
Nimrod May

Why Apple and Google are wrong about Contact Tracing

The world was not prepared for the coronavirus pandemic. While countries were trying to figure out how to best track and trace the virus, Google and Apple were the most visible companies who stepped up to volunteer their platforms to help governments perform real-time contact tracing.

While both Apple and Google had the best of intentions, the fact remains that if governments elect to utilize their platforms, they may end up causing more harm than good.

What is Contact Tracing?

Contact Tracing is the process of back-tracking the spread of a virus to establish people who have been exposed to it to reduce its spread. In the case of COVID-19, Contact Tracing is incredibly important since asymptomatic carriers of the virus can still spread the virus to others.

To maintain effective contact tracing, 3 major factors need to be considered:

Implementation, Accuracy, and Tracking.

Contact Tracing Implementation

The largest and most considerable hurdle that is necessary to overcome regarding contact tracing is ensuring that a high enough percentage of a given population is using the same contact tracing solution.

Contact Tracing Accuracy

For Contact Tracing to be effective, it needs to be incredibly accurate. If people are receiving too many alerts, they will begin to ignore them. Too few, and the virus will continue to spread.

Tracking the Spread of the Virus

The final piece of effective Contact Tracing is maintaining records of interactions between individuals and locations to establish any potential exposure to the virus.

What Technology are Google and Apple Using?

Google and Apple looked for a universal connectivity avenue to base their contact tracing platform on, and wound up using Bluetooth. Every Apple and Google phone has Bluetooth (more specifically they are using Bluetooth Low Energy), which meant that the platform could be deployed on every iOS and Android phone.

The Problem With Bluetooth

While the universality of Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy(BLE) made it an incredibly attractive avenue for communicating interactions between individuals, it also happens to be incredibly inaccurate.

The approximate radius for BLE is 29.5 feet or 9 meters. That’s terrific for listening to music, it’s a huge problem for effective contact tracing (the recommended social distance from the CDC is 6 feet).

Adding to the large radius of Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy, both can also transmit between walls, floors, and ceilings. If the radius used for establishing contact with an infected individual is too large, and interactions can be detected through physical barriers, then people wind up getting far too many exposure alerts, which in turn would cause them to begin ignoring the alerts completely.

It’s important to also note that Google and Apple might be able to implement a signal strength requirement, which could cut down the interaction alert radius based off of how strong the signal is, this method remains an incredibly ineffective and inaccurate way to measure distance.

The Solution of Soundwaves

The unique characteristics of both sonic and ultrasonic soundwaves makes them an ideal solution to overcoming the hurdles presented by conventional connection and communication methods. The properties of soundwaves change as a result of distance traveled, and bounce off of walls, ceilings, and floors.

These factors establish soundwaves as an incredibly promising avenue for precise, accurate, and real-time contact tracing.

Using Soundwaves to Calculate Distance

SONARAX technologies developed a method of using soundwaves to calculate distance using the doppler effect. As soundwaves travel, there is a slight modulation in the soundwaves. by calculating the predictable nature of this modulation, SONARAX Technologies can establish the distance between two points with incredible accuracy, and in real-time.

Using Soundwaves to Establish Physical Presence

As mentioned above, soundwaves cannot pass through physical barriers. This means that, unlike Bluetooth and WiFi, soundwaves only detect physical interactions between individuals.

Introducing SONAR-X

SONAR-X, the anonymous, accurate, and free mobile application from SONARAX Technologies, harnesses the power of soundwaves to enable the most accurate, reliable, and precise avenue for Contact Tracing currently available.

By using Ultrasonic soundwaves (soundwaves that are inaudible to humans and animals) that can be created by any speaker and logged by any microphone,  SONAR-X can both establish the distance between two points, verify its precise physical presence.

These factors are important since they mimic the virus’ ability to travel.  As an example, if two people are standing on either side of a thin wall, Both Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy will be able to register a connection through that wall. By contrast, neither soundwaves not the virus can be transmitted through that wall.

Introducing SONAR-X for Businesses

Effective contact tracing requires not only looking at interactions between individuals, but tracking exposure through locations as well. Viruses remain in the air and on surfaces even after the infected individual has left.

This means that containing the spread of the virus also requires tracking who is in a specific location at a specific window of time.

SONAR-X for business registers every time a user enters or exits a physical location such as a store or office. This enables the application to alert users to exposure risks outside of physical interactions between people.

Don’t Forget About Privacy

Privacy and Security remain major concerns for a majority of mobile device users. These concerns are particularly important since contact tracing requires the recording of interactions between users and tracking movement through locations.

In recent years, both Apple and Google have been accused of compromising their user’s privacy, which is why SONAR-X has a strong focus on privacy. Sonar-X is anonymous, asks for no personal information, and it is completely disconnected from your phone number and email account. Sonar-X users are assigned a random user ID to identify them in the future in the case of infection alerts. Additionally, ultrasonic connectivity doesn’t provide an access channel to your device (as Bluetooth does), it’s used by the application exclusively to communicate with other users.

Additionally, SONAR-X does not save or transmit any data. All user data is stored only on the user’s device, and communication happens exclusively on a peer-to-peer level.

Why Did SONARAX Build SONAR-X?

The COVID-19 global pandemic affected us all, and has wreaked havoc on global economies. Realizing SONARAX Technologies was in a position to make a difference here, a commitment was made to support the public health efforts. Our goal is to help return economies to business-as-usual and get employees back to work in a safe, secure, private, and responsible way.

Simply put, SONAR-X was built because ultrasonic technology is more accurate in performing contact tracing. Building SONAR-X is how SONARAX Technologies fulfills our commitment.

What’s Next?

The task for SONARAX Technologies is now to get the word out about SONAR-X, to get it into the hands of governments and elected officials across the globe, and help them to save lives, restart economies, and get people back to work.

The easiest solution would be to blindly accept the loudest voices in the room (Apple and Google) since they have an advantage in implementation, but as is often the case, the easiest solution isn’t the correct one. In order to have effective contact tracing implemented, we need to create an understanding for those making the decisions of how it can be accomplished.

For this, we need your help. Wherever you live, please reach out to your governmental representative and let them know about SONAR-X.

We’re all in this together, and only together can we overcome it.


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