Apple Approves Citizen’s New SafeTrace Covid App That Combines Mobile Tech, Location Data, And At-Home Testing In A Single Program
After months of intense negotiations, Apple has approved Citizen’s new Covid-19 app for distribution in the App Store. The new program, Citizen SafeTrace, is a sidecar app that adds Bluetooth-enabled Covid-19 tracking to Citizen’s widespread crime and safety app, which has surged in popularity during the George Floyd protests.
Once downloaded, SafeTrace allows the Citizen app to collect Bluetooth and GPS location data to alert you of possible Covid-19 exposure. A new third feature lets you order an at-home, Covid test from SafeTrace. The kits, from diagnostic company Phosphorus, cost $140, but Citizen will provide them for free to any user who receives an alert of possible Covid-19 exposure through the app.
Once complete, Citizen pushes the test results to both you and SafeTrace users who have been near you. “An alert could go to someone exposed faster than the user who tested positive, depending on who checks the notification first,” says Citizen founder Andrew Frame. “Speed is everything when it comes to the containment of Covid. By integrating, testing, and tracing, we have the fastest system in the world.”
Citizen keeps the identities of infected users anonymous. The new app uses Bluetooth (which has a range of about 10 feet) to determine how close, and how long, you were to a Covid carrier and GPS data to tell you precisely when and where. As I wrote in June:
Bluetooth determines if you have been with a coronavirus carrier. GPS data adds the when and where providing crucial context and delivering essential data about virus hotspots and transmission risk. Frame argues that without GPS providing time and place, an alert of a possible Covid-19 exposure can seem vague and abstract. Many people will shrug it off. But a warning that you were exposed to the virus at 10:00 pm during a friend’s birthday party makes the threat real, actionable and urgent. It’s more likely you’ll isolate and get yourself tested.
And not only you. Thanks to the GPS data, now everyone at the party—the hosts, the guests, the caterers, the sitter who was watching your kids—will know that Covid-19 crashed the bash, too. The entire group, even those without the Citizen app, can get notified, tested, and isolate, extinguishing a potential flare-up and preventing asymptomatic carriers from further spreading the disease.
Image: Citizen’s new Covid-19 app SafeTrace has launched in the Apple App Store. VCG VIA GETTY IMAGES