The Shield: Israel’s mobile app that alerts users of exposure to Covid-19

Blood samples found to have coronavirus. [Image: Courtesy]

Israel Health Ministry has developed a mobile application that will be used by people to detect if they have been in contact with coronavirus carriers.

The app known as the “Shield” ("HaMagen"), was launched by the Israeli government on Sunday as the country seeks to curb coronavirus infections, which has shot past the 1,000 mark in the country.

The details of the technology have been shared by a computer help site known as the Bleeping

The Jerusalem Post has hailed the app as a step forward in curbing the contagious disease through issuing personal alerts on exposure.

“The app is a technological device designed to give each and every one of us the ability to know quickly and accurately if we have been in contact with a person infected with the coronavirus. This way we can stop the spread of the virus and protect those close to us,” a statement from the Israeli health ministry read.

In short, the ministry said the Shield app "allows one to get a notification (time, date and place) regarding your exposure to a confirmed patient."

According to Bleeping, the app is simple as it works on mobile phones with current operating systems.

It reports: “This app, available for both Android and iOS, works by collecting the GPS and SSID (WiFi network) information of a user's mobile device throughout the day. This data is saved only on the mobile device and is not transmitted to the Ministry of Health, other government agencies, or any organization.”

Loading data

The app acquires its data at patients’ examination desks. The Israeli health ministry says that after questioning the patient about his or her movements, all the details are captured and loaded onto JavaScript Object Notation (JSON)-which stores simple data structures and objects and is basically used in transmitting data between a web application and a server.

The ministry says that such data will be captured every hour to ensure that the app is updated.

Getting notified

The app will read and match the details and locations before relaying the findings on whether the user has been exposed or not.

“When using the app, it will compare your data to the data in the downloaded JSON file and if the app detects that you were exposed to a known Coronavirus patient, it will alert you with a message stating that a match was found,” Bleeping Computer notes.

It further states that matched users are then required to report to the Ministry of Health via a website holding all the required data on the status of coronavirus infection and carriers in the country.

Below is an example of a message relayed from the app to a user.

[Image: Courtesy]

However, to prevent the inaccuracies coming from the false results, doctors are forced to intervene.

“Doctors, for example, who know that no Coronavirus patient was at a specific location can report these false positives so it can be corrected in the data file,” Bleeping

“It is important to note that this app relies on known information about existing Coronavirus patients.”

In response to data insecurity fears, Jerusalem contracted a security firm which conducted review on the safety to the users.

Israel has diagnosed 1,234 where 24 of them are reportedly critical.

As Kenya still grapples with finding new ways of mass testing and identifying contact persons; other countries like South Korea and Israel have injected technologies in screening and tracing contacts respectively.

South Korea last week hit the headlines for introducing a phone booth-style testing facility which tests individuals in seven minutes. The technique limits contact between suspected individuals and medics hence limits the danger.

Kenya is also trying to employ the use of technology in containing the virus.

On Monday, a concealed government source revealed to the Standard that the Kenya had resorted to electronic surveillance to track travellers instructed to observe self-quarantine rules.

“Their mobile phones are being monitored. When you swear to self-quarantine you state where you will do so. If you move (from the stated area) you are supposed to report this. You are not supposed to switch off your gadgets,” the source revealed.