INESC TEC is developing a mobile app to track COVID-19 contagion

A team of researchers from INESC TEC is developing a mobile application for the quick and anonymous screening of COVID-19 chains of infection in Portugal – with the support of the Institute of Public Health of the University of Porto (ISPUP).

The STAYAWAY app senses the physical proximity between smartphones and tells users if they were in the same space as people infected with the new coronavirus over the previous 14 days.

“This is a voluntary platform that informs users of their proximity to infected people throughout the previous 14 days. This method aims to improve and accelerate the identification of the chains of infection that healthcare authorities have been monitoring since the beginning of the pandemic, while safeguarding the anonymity of users”, said José Manuel Mendonça, Chairman of INESC TEC’s Board and lecturer at the Faculty of Economy of the University of Porto.

The application is expected to become available by the end of the following month – for Android and iOS. Users are only required to install the app on their devices, which will not share any type of personal information.

How does it work?

Each device will broadcast anonymous identifiers in the surrounding area, while storing the identifiers broadcasted by other mobile phones close by. These identifiers are not directly associated with the devices and users, and thanks to the information they provide, users will be able to understand if they were close to infected people.

Moreover, those infected with COVID-19 will be able to post the anonymous identifiers concerning the previous 14 days, in compliance with the health authorities’ instructions. The access to this information will help people understand if they met infected individuals during the previous days.

The STAYAWAY is voluntary and non-intrusive. “People who are not infected or do not come into contact with infected individuals will only interact with the app during the installation on their devices. However, the higher the number of users, the more effective the app will be”, added Rui Oliveira, member of INESC TEC’s Board and lecturer at the University of Minho.

In addition, the application complies with European and national data protection laws.

Last Monday (April 27), Manuel Heitor, the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, and Ana Abrunhosa, Minister for Territorial Cohesion, had the opportunity to find out more about the app, in a session held at the Rectory Building of the University of Porto.

INESC TEC and ISPUP are currently developing the app in partnership with IT Associate Labs, INESC ID and LarSys. The Minho Advanced Computing Centre (MACC), the National Cybersecurity Centre (CNCS), the Portuguese Mint and Official Printing Office (INCM) and the e.2030 National Digital Competences initiative Portugal INCoDe.2030 also support the development of the STAYAWAY app.

The INESC TEC researchers mentioned in this news piece are associated with UP-FEUP and UMinho.

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