On Thursday, 10 September, Scotland became the latest country to release a Covid-19 contact tracing app, now available for free download in the App Store and Play Store. The Protect Scotland app will augment Scotland’s existing contact tracing effort — which remains the main component of the nation’s Test and Protect system.
NearForm built Protect Scotland using the same technology behind the proximity tracing apps in Ireland and Northern Ireland, which were the first two jurisdictions to successfully demonstrate interoperability of their Bluetooth-based apps. The Protect Scotland app will also be interoperable across borders, helping to extend proximity tracing app coverage in the UK.
As with the apps in use in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar — as well as those NearForm is developing for additional health authorities in the US — Protect Scotland covid app puts user privacy first. The app does not access users’ phone data or store details of a user or their location.
Rather, the way the app works is by using Bluetooth and the Google Apple Exposure Notification (GAEN) technology to log encrypted, anonymised keys exchanged between phones running the app. If two phones are within two metres of each other for 15 minutes or more, the phones’ keys are logged as a ‘close contact.’
If one phone owner then tests positive for Covid-19, they will receive a unique code inviting them to share their anonymised app data. If they give consent and upload their data, other app users who have logged that phone’s keys will receive an exposure notification and further instructions from NHS Scotland.
“The more people who download and use the app, the better it will work, helping make connections you may have otherwise missed. This will allow people to self-isolate quickly if they are exposed to the virus, reducing the risk of them infecting others.” said Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
“I would encourage everyone who can to download the app and help slow the spread of COVID-19. This will support the work of NHS Scotland and has the potential to help avoid local lockdowns.
“We all have a part to play in suppressing the virus, and downloading the app, while following hygiene and physical distancing guidance will help protect you, your family and your community.”
More information about the Protect Scotland app can be found on the dedicated website Protect Scotland. The code for Ireland’s COVID Tracker app (which formed the basis of all NearForm-built Covid apps) has been available on GitHub since July.