Apple Releases iOS 13.5 With COVID-19 Contact Tracing API

Apple logo on display on stage during an Apple product launch event.
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Apple has just released its latest mobile software update, iOS 13.5, and it includes a handful of new features triggered by the spread of COVID-19, according to a report from 9to5Mac.

The most notable feature prompted by the widespread virus is the new Exposure Notification API, which was developed by Apple and Google with help from public health officials. The new API will inform users if they’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Once the feature is enabled on a device with an app developed by a public health authority, the device will begin anonymously broadcasting a signal with a random identifier via Bluetooth. If a user is diagnosed with COVID-19 and confirms it through the app, their device will then upload a list of anonymous identifiers belonging to everyone they’ve come in contact with. After the list is uploaded, other devices with the Exposure Notification API enabled and the required app installed will then retrieve the information to check for a possible match. If a match is detected, the user will be notified and advised on the best course of action.

“One of the most effective techniques that public health officials have used during outbreaks is called contact tracing. Through this approach, public health officials contact, test, treat and advise people who may have been exposed to an affected person,” Apple and Google said in a joint statement to 9to5Mac.

“Exposure Notification has the specific goal of rapid notification, which is especially important to slowing the spread of the disease with a virus that can be spread asymptomatically.”

It’s worth noting that iOS 13.5 being released today doesn’t immediately bring Exposure Notification to everyone with a compatible device. The API will have to be implemented in the applications created by public health agencies across the world. Fortunately, several states, including North Dakota, South Carolina, and Alabama, have already committed to adopting the API in an attempt to regain a sense of normalcy within their communities.

Other 13.5 changes and fixes include the simplification of the unlock process for devices with Face ID. Now, the passcode field will automatically pop up with a swipe from the bottom of the Lock screen if the user is wearing a face mask. This will also work when authenticating payments in the App Store, Apple Books, Apple Pay, iTunes, and other apps that allow users to log in using Face ID technology.

As for other products in Apple’s lineup, the Apple Watch is currently being tested by Stanford University to determine whether the wearable device could also play a role in detecting COVID-19, as previously reported by The Inquisitr.