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Could there be an app for contact tracing amid pandemic?

Could a smartphone help with contact tracing?

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo said it would take an ‘army’ of contact tracers to reopen New York. At this point, he says the state is moving forward in that effort, but how could technology help?

That’s the question being posed across the United States, as experts say technology could greatly assist with it.

“I think it will be more effective,” says Chunming Qiao, Distinguished Professor and Computer Science and Engineering Department chairman at UB. “Because, as a human being, we just don’t remember everything. You certainly would not be able to recall strangers you’ve been in contact with.”

It would use bluetooth signals on your smartphone. “It never collects your name, address, phone number, or email,” says Professor Qiao. “Nothing.”

An application like this would require widespread adoption, and opponents say that is the biggest challenge. Unless the technology were baked into a phone’s operating system – like iOS or Android – the system would require an update, which could take months, if not longer to roll out.



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