Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Contact tracing is currently being utilized by governments and enterprises around the world in efforts to contain and minimize the spread of the virus. Many institutions, whether private or government-backed, have hired “disease detectives” aka human contact tracers, whose job is to extract information from individuals recently exposed to COVID-19.

Countries around the world have employed various approaches to combating this highly-contagious virus. Nearly 40% of Iceland’s population downloaded a new contact tracing app in its first week, showcasing the desire for individuals to do their part in halting the spread. Vietnam had tremendous success early on. In fact, the government noted several cases and quickly evacuated a large swath of tourists from infecting its own population further. While the virus is a moving target, tracing — in tandem with distancing and face coverings — are the tools the world has to slow the spread.

TraceSafe, initially used in Hong Kong, Brunei and Singapore as a way to self-quarantine through a non-invasive and disposable wristband has been proven to flatten the curve and hold people accountable during quarantine. It was met with great success in Asia, pushing us to quickly get to work on the technology’s next application: contact tracing.

We are ready to help the U.S. stop the spread and reopen safely without compromising privacy. If the measures seem egregious and out of the realm of what the world is dealing with, it is because drastic times call for drastic measures. We all want the virus gone; we all want a robust economy with low unemployment rates and more jobs being created and we all want to feel safe again.

However, a challenge we’ve seen at TraceSafe is that a nationwide contact tracing has proven difficult to implement, as roughly 60% of the U.S. population would need to participate in order for it to be effective. With social distancing efforts growing more relaxed, we’re seeing a sharp increase in daily infection rates. On August 15th, there were 55,348 new cases of COVID in the U.S. in a single day. We can’t keep up with testing individuals for COVID, much less track who they are interacting with. Even the top U.S. infectious disease specialist Dr. Fauci believes that our current efforts aren’t working.

Apple and Google attempted to get on the contact tracing bandwagon back in April, launching their respective technologies to a handful of U.S. states and 22 countries, but were met with controversy as there wasn’t a clear message as to whether or not the tech giants were accessing individual user locations and interactions without permission.

Apple and Google’s shortcomings lead to another question: how do we conduct contact tracing while simultaneously protecting people’s privacy? This is America after all, home of the free.