On Monday, Alabama will become the fourth state to launch a COVID-19 Exposure Notification app with the release of the GuideSafe app.
UAH has published a page about the GuideSafe app, where it indicates that using the application will be entirely voluntary. The university has also partnered with the broader GuideSafe state apparatus to conduct re-entry COVID-19 tests for students who plan to attend classes on campus.
This app joins the efforts of Virginia, North Dakota, and Wyoming in alerting residents when they have a potential exposure to a COVID-19-positive person. All of the apps use a cross-platform technology pioneered by Apple and Google. The software giants have so far allowed only public health authorities to publish exposure notification apps. This will prevent confusion and allow every smartphone user to get one official app released by their relevant authority.
The technology is designed with privacy in mind. Neither the smartphone vendors Apple and Google nor your local health authority will get access to your name or location. Instead, enabled smartphones will passively communicate with each other using random identifiers and store them for up to 14 days. Once a person identifies themselves as COVID-19 positive, all smartphones that were near the person’s smartphone in the past 14 days are notified about their potential COVID-19 exposure.
This functionality will be available for all Apple devices that support iOS 13 and all Android devices using Android Marshmallow and later.
Getting the exposure notification functionality will be opt-in. Users interested in getting exposure notifications will need to download the relevant app from their local authority. According to an Apple Newsroom post from April 10, Apple and Google are working on a broader update that will build this functionality into iOS and Android. This would allow users to get exposure notifications without downloading any application.
The app was tested by college students across the state in its pilot phase. It was built by Birmingham software firm MotionMobs in partnership with The University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Participation in the GuideSafe exposure notification initiative will help identify COVID-19 exposures on campus and give students peace of mind when attending in-person classes.