The first version of Apple and Google’s API to trace possible contact with people infected by the coronavirus should be available next week. This emerged from a conversation between Apple CEO Tim Cook and Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for the Internal Market.

Breton shared a photo of his desk, which shows that he has a video conversation with Cook. Breton told the French newspaper Les Echos that Tim Cook had told him that the API would be available for software developers on the 28th of April. According to Breton, he reiterated that the usage of the apps had to be anonymous, voluntary, transparent, temporary and, above all, secure.

Collaboration between Apple and Google

Apple and Google announced earlier this month that they were working together on the contact-tracing API. A collaboration between the two tech giants is almost unprecedented. The system will work on both iOS and Android and uses random IDs, which are not attached to the user data, to communicate with users who have been confirmed to be carrying the coronavirus. The system is decentralized and, according to the two parties, doesn’t collect geographic data to ensure that the privacy of the user is maintained.

The reason for the unusual cooperation between Apple and Google lies in their common interest to reach as many people as possible.

How is the system implemented?

The system is implemented in two stages: At first, the API is made available to the developers. Because of Breton’s statement, we now know that the API will be available to software developers on the 28th of April. Mid-May was the original date, but based on the conversation between Breton and Cook, the companies have fastened the development of the API. This makes sense, as contact tracing is deemed vital to understand better how and when social distancing measures need to be altered.

The second stage is to issue a system update to incorporate contact tracing on an OS level. The contact tracing will be based on an opt-in system. Smartphones running both iOS and Android can use this function to participate in contact tracing voluntarily. Whether they have installed specific nationwide contact tracing applications or not. Apple and Google clarified, however, that users would still be asked to stay in contact with the local government to follow the necessary steps, should a user be notified by the application that they may have had contact with someone with the coronavirus. This second phase of the plan is only expected later this year.

Numerous contact tracing systems are already under development or being implemented worldwide. A universal app that allows these systems to communicate with each other and allows broad participation would be an excellent addition. Both Google and Apple published online data earlier this month on the effect of lockdowns on society.