THe UK is having second thoughts about its contact tracing app.

What you need to know

  • The UK is apparently looking into adopting Apple and Google’s contact tracing solution.
  • The country has previously pushed a centralized solution for its app.
  • The NHS has contracted an IT firm to research the feasibility of the switch.

The United Kingdom is one of the few countries in Europe to be moving forward with its own centralized system for contact tracing. The country’s stance on the matter has prevented them from using Apple and Google’s decentralized technology to implement their system.

A new report from Financial Times, however, shows that the NHS, the UK’s health agency, is looking into the possibility of switching to Apple and Google’s solution.

According to the report, the NHSX digital innovation division has contracted Zuhlke Engineering, an IT development firm based in Switzerland, to research the “feasability” of changing the app to work with Apple and Google’s solution.

“The contract includes a requirement to “investigate the complexity, performance and feasibility of implementing native Apple and Google contact tracing APIs within the existing proximity mobile application and platform”. The work is described as a “two week timeboxed technical spike”, suggesting it is still at a preliminary phase, but with a deadline of mid-May.”

An NHSX official told the Financial Times that the agency has been working with Apple and Google for awhile now, so the move is a normal part of the development process.

“We’ve been working with Apple and Google throughout the app’s development and it’s quite right and normal to continue to refine the app.”

One of the main issues with the current NHS app is that privacy settings in iOS prevent the app from running in the background properly.

“One person familiar with the NHS testing process said that its app was able to work in the background in most cases, except when two iPhones were locked and left unused for around 30 minutes, without any Android devices coming within 60m of the devices.”

It is unclear if the NHS will actually move to Apple and Google’s contact tracing solution, but this new information seems to suggest they are seriously entertaining the possibility.

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