Birmingham’s MotionMobs creates contact tracing app to slow spread of COVID-19

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Birmingham-based company MotionMobs. Photo via @motionmobs Instagram page

Birmingham-based company MotionMobs made headlines in the New York Times for the development of a new contact tracing app that could help slow the spread of COVID-19. Check out what the app’s all about, plus learn how universities like UAB will be using it.

The Who and the What

The term contact tracing is getting a lot of buzz these days, much like the phrases “social distancing” and “flattening the curve” did way back in February. The term is quickly becoming commonplace in the tech industry, but if you aren’t all too submerged in this world, here’s a look at what it is.

A contact tracing app is designed to let people know if they have been in close contact with someone who later reports positive for COVID-19. Amazing, right?

To create the app, Birmingham-based data-driven software company MotionMobs has partnered with the Alabama Department of Public Health and UAB.

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Kicking things off in DC with @act_online! #appcon17

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“We’re excited to be on the cutting edge of technology as one of the first states in the US to develop an exposure notification mobile app.”

Taylor Peake, President, MotionMobs

According to the New York Times piece, students and employees of UAB who will be returning to campus in the coming months will be asked to sign into a website with their school credentials every three days and report whether they have any COVID-19 related symptoms.

The app will use the Exposure Notification API developed by Apple + Google to anonymously monitor exposures to COVID-19 and alert users when they may need to get tested. 

But here’s what makes this even cooler. Apple + Google are authenticating just one app per state to integrate with their API—and they chose a company in Birmingham. Awesome!

Will the app trace information from its users? 

The answer is no. So there’s no reason to fret.

According to Peake, “Restrictions from Apple and Google prevent the collection of any personally identifiable data through the app, so it will never collect location data, email addresses, names or anything else that could be used to identify a user.” 

How effective is the app?

According to Peake, “In order to be effective, research shows mobile contact tracing needs a substantial adoption rate among the population.”

What does this mean? Well, it means that a whole lot of people need to use it for it to be effective in helping slow the spread of infectious diseases like the coronavirus. According to MotionMobs blog, it requires at least 60% of the population to participate, according to studies completed by the European Union.

Where can you get the app?

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DL the app! Photo via Unsplash

Though the app is not available just yet, when it is, you can find it via the Apple Store and Google Play. For the app to work, you will need to download the latest OS version available for your device. 

The best part—the app is free and available to all Alabama residents.

Will you download MotionMobs contact tracing app when it’s released? Let us know your thoughts on social @bhamnow!