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Digital Contact Tracing: What features do we recommend to improve the NHS Contact Tracing App?

May 05, 2021
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In our previous blog, we covered “Digital Contact Tracing: Everything You Need to Know.”

As part of our continued commitment to innovation and driving social good through technology, our team has been looking at ways we could improve the NHS Contact Tracing App including writing some example code for features that we predict would improve user experience and safety and increase uptake.

Here is an overview of the changes we have recommended so far – which the NHS Contact Tracing App owners can find in GitHub. See links and more information below.

Geofence Warnings

The new Geofence warnings feature we’ve worked on uses Geofencing technology to identify high-risk areas. The idea behind this is that the NHS can create Geofenced areas where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is high.

This new feature utilises the user’s current location and alerts them when they are entering and entering any Geofenced areas, presenting them with a notification or updates to the app’s UI as the user moves between different zones.

Geofence warnings provide a simple, easy-to-follow alert to those with the app installed and offer them useful information on higher risk areas and what impact this may have on them.

The feature involves tracking user’s locations but this tracking is restricted only to when the user is entering or exiting the established Geofences.

Current Location COVID Information Widget

The current location COVID information widget tracks the user’s location to provide a generalised warning about the COVID restriction levels present within the user’s location. The service will trigger and update when the user moves a significant distance into a new area.

This feature provides a constant status update for the user about the location they are currently in and can be extended to provide further details when the user clicks on the widget to launch the app.

The widget requires constant location service tracking in the background and is shown to the user as a notification when the service is active. This will have an impact on the device’s battery life.

Customisable Location Settings

Both of these features access the user’s location which raises privacy concerns, so the user must opt into having their location tracked to make use of these features. However, the level at which these features ‘track’ user’s locations can be tailored in code to varying degrees. 

No user location data would be transferred off of their device. Geofences can either be set up by users and say on their device or can be configured by the NHS as part of publicly available information.

Both the Geofence warnings and current location COVID information widget supply useful and actionable information to the user in a direct and easy-to-follow manner – allowing them to stay better informed when making decisions.

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