Protect Scotland contact tracing app taps Apple-Google Exposure Notification system

Scotland this week became the latest European country to roll out a coronavirus contact tracing app built on Apple and Google’s Exposure Notification system.

Called Protect Scotland the free app is an opt-in coronavirus tracking measure administered by NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect program.

Like other apps utilizing the Exposure Notification framework, Protect Scotland operates in the background and uses Bluetooth to exchange anonymous, encrypted identifiers with other devices running the app. When the app discovers another user, it records the distance between devices and the length of time they were in contact with each other.

The solution does not store data on central servers run by Apple or Google, but instead silos anonymized Bluetooth beacons on user devices until participants elect to share the information with an outside party.

If a user tests positive for coronavirus, they can input a test code assigned by a contact tracer into the app. This will trigger transmission of an automated notification to other app users who came in contact with the infected person.

Protect Scotland also includes a feature that enables users to share the app with friends and family, hopefully boosting adoption rates.

Scotland’s launch follows similar digital contact tracing efforts from a number of countries around the world. As of mid-August, some 16 countries including Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Uruguay were using the Apple-Google API.

While international support has been relatively strong, U.S. states have been slow to adopt the Exposure Notification system. Only six states currently use the API, while another two are expected to launch compatible apps in the coming weeks.

On Wednesday, Colorado announced upcoming support for Exposure Notification Express, technology that allows owners of iOS and Android smartphones to participate in contact tracing efforts without downloading a dedicated app. The new protocol was pushed out to iPhone users with the release of iOS 13.7 last week.

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