Apple Lays Groundwork for Coronavirus Exposure Notification API in iOS 13.5 Beta 3 and New Xcode 11.5 Beta [Updated]

Apple is today releasing the third beta of iOS 13.5 for developers along with the first beta of Xcode 11.5, laying the groundwork for the release of its opt-in exposure notification APIs that will be used by public health apps to create coronavirus contact tracing tools.

iOS 13.4.5 has been bumped up to iOS 13.5 to include the code that’s necessary to run the first apps built using the exposure notification API, while Xcode 11.5 includes a new version of the iOS SDK with the exposure notification API.

apple google contact tracing slide
Apple is working with Google on its exposure notification initiative, and Google has also delivered its beta Google Play Services update with the exposure notification API and SDK to select developers who can test using Android Developer Studio.

Public health authorities are able to use these new tools to begin getting their apps that take advantage of exposure notification ready. Apple is planning to release its exposure notification API in mid-May following the testing period.

Apple and Google first announced plans to develop Bluetooth-based contact tracing technology (now known as exposure notification) on April 10, providing a privacy-focused way to track coronavirus exposure.

The beta API released today is the first part of a two-prong effort to provide an exposure notification platform for health agencies. Apps created by verified health authorities can incorporate the API to allow smartphones to communicate with one another, providing users with notifications if they’ve come into contact with someone that is later diagnosed with COVID–19.

When smartphone users with a contact tracing app installed come into contact with another person that also has an app installed, their phones exchange an anonymous identifier beacon. If one of those people contracts coronavirus, they can then choose to notify all of the other people they’ve been in contact with, and at that point, all the other smartphones that have exchanged info with the infected person’s smartphone will be notified.

The API works cross platform on both iOS and Android devices, and it was built with privacy and transparency in mind. A random, rotating identifier, which changes every 15 minutes, is assigned to a person’s phone and transmitted via Bluetooth to nearby devices.

No personally identifiable information is associated with the identifier, and the list of identifiers a person has been in contact with doesn’t leave the phone unless the user decides to share it. Users that test positive will not be identified to other users, Apple, or Google, and location data is not collected.

Exposure time is recorded in five minute intervals, with the maximum exposure time capped at 30 minutes. All Bluetooth metadata is encrypted, and exposure estimates will rely on the power level of the Bluetooth signal to determine the distance between two phones when contact was made.

Public health authorities will be able to define and calculate an exposure risk level that they can choose to assign to users in the event they are notified of COVID–19 exposure, allowing for fine-tuned notifications that will evaluate exposure based on information like approximate distance and exposure duration. Exposure risk is calculated on users’ devices in the app and the data is not shared with Apple or Google.

Apple and Google on Friday plan to release additional information including sample code that will aid developers in understanding how the exposure notification system will operate, and specific criteria for developing apps.

Detailed privacy information about Apple’s exposure notification initiative is available on Apple’s Contact Tracing website, with info on Bluetooth and Cryptography specifications along with a Frequently Asked Questions feature.

In the future, Apple and Google plan to debut a broader Bluetooth-based contact tracing platform that is built into iOS and Android, allowing more individuals to participate.

Update: Due to the Labor Day holiday in Europe on Friday, Apple plans to release additional details associated with the betas of the exposure notification API early next week.

Related Forum: iOS 13

Top Rated Comments

dcworthi Avatar
52 months ago

enough with the covid already
I've been sick with Covid for nearly 8 weeks and still can't taste and smell. My friend Alex lost his mom; she was 51. My friend Kelly lost his grandfather and my friend Rosemary lost her nephew. I sincerely hope you're not suggesting that Apple shouldn't be doing this.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
wdwpsu Avatar
52 months ago
9/11 opened the door to a bunch of invasive measures on the guise of "Security". Here we go. Patriot Act all over again.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Chlloret Avatar
52 months ago

It is time for digging out the flip phones if we do not want to be tracked?
Well, even the cell towers can still trace us...
Any phone can be tracked, including a Moto Razr. Or Nokia 2110.
this API can not track. It can not be used to track you. Or anybody else. The App you have to install can not track you. Or anybody else.
Its so nicely documented, why is nobody reading the specs?
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
benshive Avatar
52 months ago

enough with the covid already
That'd be cool if ignoring problems made them go away.

"Enough with world hunger"

"Enough with political corruption"

"Enough with school shooters"

Wow, I feel much safer now :)
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gnasher729 Avatar
52 months ago

That is what they want you to believe.
Once the Pandora's box is opened, it is opened.

Essentially opening a backdoor.
Look, whatever you think Apple might secretly put into this API, they could have put into your phone long ago.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Babygotfont Avatar
52 months ago
enough with the covid already
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iPhone 15 Pro FineWoven

Apple Reportedly Stops Production of FineWoven Accessories

Sunday April 21, 2024 6:03 am PDT by
Apple has stopped production of FineWoven accessories, according to the Apple leaker and prototype collector known as "Kosutami." In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Kosutami explained that Apple has stopped production of FineWoven accessories due to its poor durability. The company may move to another non-leather material for its premium accessories in the future. Kosutami has revealed...
Provenance Emulator

PlayStation and SEGA Emulator for iPhone and Apple TV Coming to App Store [Updated]

Friday April 19, 2024 8:29 am PDT by
The lead developer of the multi-emulator app Provenance has told iMore that his team is working towards releasing the app on the App Store, but he did not provide a timeframe. Provenance is a frontend for many existing emulators, and it would allow iPhone and Apple TV users to emulate games released for a wide variety of classic game consoles, including the original PlayStation, SEGA Genesis,...
iOS 17 All New Features Thumb

iOS 17.5 Will Add These New Features to Your iPhone

Sunday April 21, 2024 3:00 am PDT by
The upcoming iOS 17.5 update for the iPhone includes only a few new user-facing features, but hidden code changes reveal some additional possibilities. Below, we have recapped everything new in the iOS 17.5 and iPadOS 17.5 beta so far. Web Distribution Starting with the second beta of iOS 17.5, eligible developers are able to distribute their iOS apps to iPhone users located in the EU...
maxresdefault

Apple Announces 'Let Loose' Event on May 7 Amid Rumors of New iPads

Tuesday April 23, 2024 7:11 am PDT by
Apple has announced it will be holding a special event on Tuesday, May 7 at 7 a.m. Pacific Time (10 a.m. Eastern Time), with a live stream to be available on Apple.com and on YouTube as usual. The event invitation has a tagline of "Let Loose" and shows an artistic render of an Apple Pencil, suggesting that iPads will be a focus of the event. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more ...
Apple Vision Pro Dual Loop Band Orange Feature 2

Apple Cuts Vision Pro Shipments as Demand Falls 'Sharply Beyond Expectations'

Tuesday April 23, 2024 9:44 am PDT by
Apple has dropped the number of Vision Pro units that it plans to ship in 2024, going from an expected 700 to 800k units to just 400k to 450k units, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Orders have been scaled back before the Vision Pro has launched in markets outside of the United States, which Kuo says is a sign that demand in the U.S. has "fallen sharply beyond expectations." As a...