Q: What does the success of the NHS app tell us about other EN apps?
Covid Watch Exposure Notification App Launches in Arizona
Available now in the App Store and Google Play, the first-ever exposure notification app using an evidence-based dynamic risk model begins a phased rollout at the University of Arizona and distinguishes itself from competing platforms in the process.
Believe it or not, fall is just around the corner and many college students across the country are already hitting the books. Those who are not taking all of their classes online, and spending their entire semester on Zoom, will be back in classrooms in just a few days. While most states have been tirelessly planning a safe homecoming for their campus communities, Arizona doubled down and emerged as the leader in the back-to-school fight against COVID-19. As the first in the nation to deploy Covid Watch – the exposure notification app co-developed, tested, and validated by one of its most prestigious research universities, the Grand Canyon State is paving the way for the rest of the nation’s campuses to reopen as safely as possible.
The University of Arizona (UArizona), ranked one of the top 15 public research universities in the nation, launched the Covid Watch Arizona app for university students, faculty and staff after several weeks of rigorous testing, with the app now available for free download on the App Store and Google Play. Though not mandatory for the UArizona community, it is the first exposure notification app to be adopted by a higher learning institution in the U.S., and because of its fully customizable capabilities, it’s tailored to UArizona Wildcats every step of the way. Most importantly though, the launch marks the introduction of the first app to use a unique evidence-based dynamic risk model with real-time recommendations to help people make informed decisions on how they can help slow the spread of COVID-19. This campus-wide launch will help demonstrate success and identify best practices that can help guide the phased rollout to state-wide adoption. We are ready to expand to other regions within Arizona and beyond - and we’re excited to prove it.
UArizona is encouraging students, faculty and staff returning to campus to download the Covid Watch App through an engaging digital outreach campaign on social media.
The university exhibited their commitment to preserving privacy by co-developing with Covid Watch one of the first fully anonymous exposure notification apps built on the Google Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) API in the United States, but it was their dedication to research that helped us create the most sophisticated exposure app available anywhere. Unlike some recently unveiled solutions that are only now formulating data on certain simulated scenarios, the Covid Watch app has been undergoing extensive testing throughout the UArizona partnership. Everything from the app’s signal strength calibration to the dynamic risk scoring model has been fine-tuned through original research.
The first-of-its-kind risk model was built based on studies conducted by Dr. Joanna Masel from the University of Arizona Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. In collaboration with Covid Watch and UArizona colleagues, Dr. Masel developed a method to calculate the level of exposure risk by assessing the duration of exposure to and distance from an infected person, as well as at what point during the infection a user was exposed. Covid Watch is the only app that actually uses this information to generate exposure notifications and individualized public health recommendations that better reflect real life interactions.
This built-in risk model is also a design element that aids the Covid Watch app’s readiness for wider deployment. It allows for easier regional calibration because it is customizable to the corresponding local public health authority’s current recommended precautions; exposed users will be offered region-specific resources upon notification, as well as information on public health guidelines determined by the area.
UArizona has been testing the Covid Watch App in real-world scenarios on campus since July.
Having this platform approach versus a bespoke solution for each individual state is incredibly valuable, especially in a country the size of the U.S. where many people live long distances from their friends and families, often in different states. The Covid Watch Platform’s global interoperability would allow an Arizona student going home to California for the weekend to select and change their region with ease, and return back to campus again, once the laundry’s all done. The same app and the same data will be interpreted through the lens of the updated region; no potential exposures are lost or blocked, providing the user with peace of mind that their health or the health of others will not be compromised simply by traveling outside the app’s reach.
The University of Arizona chose the Covid Watch Platform because its exposure notification system utilizes a fully anonymous, privacy-preserving algorithm paired with a verification portal designed for public health officials to confirm positive cases of COVID-19. Through our collaboration, we designed an app with the capability to take this technology far beyond the Tucson campus community.
The barrier to entry for other states to follow is that much smaller now that Arizona is one of the first states in the U.S. to deploy an exposure notification app built and published on the Google-Apple APIs. Covid Watch is ready to launch in any jurisdiction globally, once approved by a state or federal public health authority. Contact the Covid Watch Partnerships team for additional information on our four-week roll out plan.
The Covid Watch nonprofit organization began in February 2020 as a volunteer-led initiative to create public health technology to slow the spread of COVID-19 while preserving digital privacy rights. We are now a team of more than 650 volunteers from around the world with a collective vision of ending this pandemic without sacrificing our civil liberties.
Our original mission is still the same, and as the pioneers of the anonymous protocols that led to the development of exposure notification technology, we have a strong commitment to innovation and making this digital health tool available to those who need it most. We value altruism and transparency; therefore, our solutions are built on open source code that is available for all to see. We continue to invest in adjacent areas like hardware integration, privacy-preserving systems for the identification of hot-spots, and wearables to expand the reach of exposure notifications beyond smartphones – and as always, we continue to empower communities to fight the pandemic while protecting digital privacy.
If you are a representative of a state or federal public health authority and interested in bringing the Covid Watch exposure notification platform to your community, please reach out to us through our website to schedule a consultation.