Apple and Google announce tie-up to curb coronavirus pandemic

NEW YORK (Kyodo) — Apple Inc. and Google LLC said Friday they will cooperate to prevent further spread of the new coronavirus through technologies alerting smartphone users who might have had close contact with infected persons.

Smartphone users will be able to download the app from U.S. health authorities in May. If a user tests positive for coronavirus and records the information in the app, people who may have had close contact with the person in the past week will receive an alert message.

The two IT giants plan to install the app in their respective operating systems for smartphones in coming months so that users do not need to download it.

It is rare for the two rival companies to join forces in business.

“Google and Apple are announcing a joint effort to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design,” the two companies said in a joint statement.

“There has never been a more important moment to work together to solve one of the world’s most pressing problems,” Apple and Google said.

“Through close cooperation and collaboration with developers, governments and public health providers, we hope to harness the power of technology to help countries around the world slow the spread of COVID-19 and accelerate the return of everyday life,” the statement added.

According to U.S. media, the total number of users of iPhones and Android smartphones is about 3 billion, more than a third of the world’s population.

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