Tech

COVID-19 contact tracing app developed by Microsoft launched in Japan

COVID-19 contact tracing app developed by Microsoft launched in Japan - Appy Pie

The Japan’s government has released its coronavirus contact tracing app. The app is available for iOS and Android users.

The COVID-19 contact tracing app depends on Apple and Google’s co-designed publicity notification platform. It uses Bluetooth to determine whether users have come into close contact with others who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The app has been developed by Microsoft engineers who started work in May.  Despite the fact that the app store listing simply reads COVID-19 Contact App, Japan refers to the app as COCOA (COVID-19 Contact-Confirming Application).     

Japan government has claimed that COCOA does not store personal information like location data or phone numbers of the users, in agreement with Apple and Google’s APIs tracking platform. It is created, like other contact tracing app globally, on the technology that works by logging when two phones are close together for longer than a set period of time. COCOA records encrypted data flagging the phones that have been within one meter for more than 15 minutes; when one person reports the fact that they have tested positive for COVID-19, other users will be notified.

Microsoft developers used core technology jointly developed by Apple and Google to create the app. Initially another Tokyo-based company Code was initially hired to lead the project, but conditions imposed by Apple and Google that the software could only be managed by public health agencies lead the project to be finally transferred to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

In all this hassle a month’s worth of work had gone to waste and mean while, contact-tracing apps were rolled out by more than 40 other countries around the globe.

Japan’s delay in launching the app left many concerned over its effectiveness. University of Oxford said that this type of app needs to be used by almost 60 percent of the population to be useful for the country. However, countries who adopted contact-tracing apps early, such as Singapore and Iceland, the figure just stands at around 40 percent.

Many countries have debated their approach to contact tracing apps in recent months of the pandemic spread, with some governments seeking more control over data than Apple and Google’s APIs allow. Germany released its app based on the same platform after originally planning to develop a different system and UK backtracked this week on a proprietary NHS app that has been under testing.

In mid-April, Norway had become the first country in the world to introduce a contact-tracing app. The the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and software company Simula rolled out their tool to three of the country’s municipalities at that time.

Japan’s coronavirus outbreak has been relatively low taking into consideration the country’s size, with 17,668 cases and 935 deaths confirmed so far. The figures represent – 140 cases per million people, compared to 6,779 in the US and 1,060 worldwide.