The Exposure Notifications System by Apple and Google was named “Innovation of the Year” in the Security category of Popular Science’s “Best of What’s New” awards.
“The Best of What’s New Awards showcase the year’s greatest feats of human ingenuity,” says Popular Science Editor-in-Chief Corinne Iozzio. “Even in a year like 2020, innovation has helped us glimpse a future that’s safer, smarter, and more enjoyable than we might have thought possible. This collection, which includes everything from a new generation of Mars explorers to ultra-hygienic print-to-order eyeshadows, is full of items we’re proud to call the Best of What’s New.”
Popular Science says that a pair of “massive tech rivals” (Apple and Google) banded together, and what they created — the Exposure Notification System — “could change how we fight COVID—and other public health threats we don’t even know about yet.”
Here’s more of what Popular Science has to say about the system: “Of all the tools missing from the US’s pandemic response, digital contact tracing, which maps the local spread of a virus through the movements and interactions of people who are infected, felt the most within reach. A handful of countries, including Taiwan and Ireland, have curbed COVID-19 with apps that keep tabs this way. But privacy tradeoffs and stigmas abound. So, two of the biggest smartphone makers—and fierce rivals—came up with a solution. Google and Apple’s application programming interface, a type of device-agnostic code, ducks the biggest Big Brother concerns by directly alerting anyone at risk of infection instead of storing individuals’ locations in a centralized database. First adopted by European countries like Switzerland and Austria, and now in play in more than 20 US states and territories, the Exposure Notifications System sends a ping every time it senses another phone’s Bluetooth signal, usually within a 6-foot radius. If someone with whom you’ve exchanged beacons reports a positive coronavirus test, the system alerts you so you can get checked yourself. Every step of the process requires user consent, and apps built over the interface block other devices from accessing your personal info. Getting folks to self-report is a challenge, but with medical resources stretched so thin, it helps to have tech that reminds us to do our part—during this public health crisis and the next.”