Over the last few months, contact-tracing apps have emerged as a part of the world-wide coronavirus efforts. Many of the world’s leading technology companies started developing a system for effective digital contact tracing. Amongst them are Apple and Google, two of the largest tech companies that control more than 75% of the global smartphone industry.
Following the two tech giants, many of the world’s technology companies are developing solutions that would allow digital contact tracing. Some of them are repurposing existing technology to focus on tracing coronavirus.
It seems like the coronavirus pandemic has created a gold rush for tech startups. According to some estimates, electronic contact tracing could become a multi-billion-dollar market.
Many questions remain before companies start implementing contact tracing solutions, such as whether it is effective on a large scale, or if it is even legal when it comes to privacy and confidentiality.
Before buying into the COVID-19 technology craze, consider the following:
- Innovation or chasing the money?
The big players such as Google and Apple are offering their contact tracing solutions for free to the public. Many of the smaller startups are seeing a big financial opportunity and diving into the health space without having capacity or knowing anything about public health. Although we do support innovation, the question remains: are these smaller tech companies just trying to capitalize on the coronavirus pandemic?
- Just how reliable these apps are?
Many experts have argued that contact-tracing apps are limited in their abilities. It is important to understand those limitations when buying and implementing technology from various smaller providers. Companies that are selling it, should be very transparent about what the tool can and cannot do. We think it is too large of a solution to manage and only the big companies have the capacity to accomplish it. We question if the smaller players have the scope and the knowledge to build meaningful contact tracing solution.
- Ethical and legal issues
Privacy is the main concern when it comes to contact tracing. Challenges arise related to confidentiality, especially in the medical field. It opens a whole new topic for discussion. Many of the companies selling contact-tracing technology say they keep the data private and only share with designated authorities such as the HR department for instance. We question how is the data being stored and used?
- Cost VS Benefit
It is important to consider how much your electronic digital solution will cost your business and will the benefits be worth the investment. Real-time location tracking technology is the closest solution to effective contact-tracing that comes to mind and it can be very costly.
- Is digital contact tracing here to stay?
Some experts say we are seeing the development of an industry. Perhaps the technology we are using today will be used for the years to come. However, many of the current contact tracing solutions offered by small tech companies are full of flaws and raise a lot of technical and privacy concerns. We must ask whether contact tracing apps are here to stay, or it is just a fad.
Communication systems, networks, wireless duress, and RTLS vendors are creating in our opinion useless “in-building” contact tracing technologies. If you have an in-building infrastructure or network, anybody can write additional software to create a pseudo contact tracing solution. But what is the point? The idea is to monitor any threats coming from the outside of the building. Therefore, the only effective way to do Population Health Management with contact tracing is to rely on the widest and most used device: The Cell Phone.