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No-one likes a smart ass but ..!

June 19, 2020 11:48 AM

nndr (Photo by Milivoj Kuhar on Unsplash)The news that the Government has abandoned work on the smartphone app is hugely disappointing. Despite ministerial talk now of it being the cherry on the cake of a track and trace system it provides about the only way of tracking contacts of people that are not known. If we are to get back to something like normal life and potentially reduce the social distancing gap from two meters we will all come into more contact with people we don't know on public transport, in restaurants and shops

The manual track and trace system helps identify people you know . The app would help identify those you don't

Back in early May we lamented the desire of Government to do its own thing rather than cooperate and hoped the failures would finally put an after success end to this exceptionalism. One area we highlighted was the app see https://southsuffolklibdems.org.uk/en/article/2020/1359837/the-end-of-english-exceptionalism. We are far from being IT experts but it seemed even then that the combined power of Google and Apple would always trump our own develop version.After all almost all smartphones run on software produced by one or other and their unprecedented agreement to work together on the app was always likely to be a greater success

The Government app only recognised 4% of Apple phones and 75% of Android models whilst the alternative Google/Apple model can identify 99% of phones, but has problems distinguishing between whether somebody was 1 metre or 3 metres away.

David Richards, CEO and co-founder of distributed computing specialists WANdisco said yesterday "Not opting for a decentralised model from the start, set out the whole project to fail. In truth, there was never any chance an effective centralised model would be built in time - in fact, this would be a huge task even for global tech giants with a fast-tracked supply chain, let alone a heavily bureaucratic organisation,"
As a Liberal their decision to retain contacts on the phone rather than send it to a central database is also more attractive on personal data security grounds reducing the risk of hacking and central surveillance .

Talk is now that we won't get the app until the Winter which is odd. Germany a country which does have a world class trace and track system of the type promised by Mr Johnson for 1st June and so clearly not delivered, launched the app this week. It runs on open source software which means it is available to anyone who wishes to use it. It is not clear why therefore we have to wait so long before getting access to it. If work needs doing on refining the app on distance recognition would it not make sense to launch the app as it is today and upgrade when available. This would allow time to build up the number of users of the app making it much more useful when full capability is in place

Post Script. The plot thickens. Apple told the Times today : "It is difficult to understand what these claims are as they haven't spoken to us." The same system is already in use in Germany and Italy. "There have been loads of field tests by public health authorities that have shown it works effectively,".