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
19 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
19 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
19 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
19 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
19 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
19 months ago
enough with the covid already
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
affinity designer contour tool

Serif Updates Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher With New Tools and Functions

Thursday February 4, 2021 1:58 am PST by
Serif today announced across-the-board updates for its popular suite of Affinity creative apps, including Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, and the Apple award-winning Affinity Publisher for Mac, all of which were among the first professional creative suites to be optimized for Apple's new M1 chip. "After another year which saw record numbers of people switching to Affinity, it's exciting to...
maxresdefault

Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak Discuss iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, Privacy, Shortcuts on Mac, and More

Saturday June 12, 2021 6:12 am PDT by
As is tradition, Apple executives Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak joined Daring Fireball's John Gruber in an episode of The Talk Show to discuss several announcements that Apple made over this weeks WWDC, including iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and a large focus around privacy. Federighi kicks off the conversation discussing the common architecture, now thanks to Apple silicon, across all of...
M1X MBP Feature

Leaker: Upcoming MacBook Pro to See Price Hike Over Current Model, Equal Performance Across 14 and 16-Inch Sizes

Tuesday August 24, 2021 5:28 am PDT by
The upcoming 14-inch MacBook Pro is set to be more expensive than the current 13-inch MacBook Pro and both the 14 and 16-inch models will offer the same performance, according to the leaker known as "Dylandkt." The leaker shared the information on Twitter, explaining that both of the upcoming MacBook Pro models, expected to come in 14 and 16-inch sizes, will feature the same performance due...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
General Apps Messages

Android iMessage Competitor Puts Pressure on Apple

Friday July 30, 2021 3:15 am PDT by
Google and the three major U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, will all support a new communications protocol on Android smartphones starting in 2022, a move that puts pressure on Apple to adopt a new cross-platform messaging standard and may present a challenge to iMessage. Verizon recently announced that it is planning to adopt Messages by Google as its default messaging...
YouTube Picture in Picture Feature

YouTube Premium Subscribers Can Now Use iOS Picture-in-Picture: Here's How

Wednesday August 25, 2021 3:55 am PDT by
Google has rolled out picture-in-picture support as an "experimental" feature for YouTube premium subscribers, allowing them to watch video in a small window when the app is closed. If you're a premium YouTube subscriber looking to try out picture-in-picture, follow these steps: Launch a web browser and sign into your YouTube account at YouTube.com. Navigate to www.youtube.com/new. Scroll...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Kuo: iPhone 13 to Feature LEO Satellite Communications to Make Calls and Texts Without Cellular Coverage

Sunday August 29, 2021 7:39 am PDT by
The iPhone 13 will feature low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communication connectivity to allow users to make calls and send messages in areas without 4G or 5G coverage, according to the reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that the iPhone 13 lineup will feature hardware that is able to connect to LEO satellites. If enabled with the relevant...
twitterqrcode

Twitter Introduces QR Codes for Sharing and Following Accounts

Wednesday November 16, 2016 4:13 pm PST by
Twitter today introduced Snapchat-style QR codes, which are designed to make it easier to find and follow friends on the social network. Each Twitter QR code is unique to an individual Twitter user, so when scanned, it'll bring up the person's account. To access your Twitter QR code, you'll need the official Twitter app for iOS. In the app, go to your profile, tap on the gear icon, and select...
macOS Monterey on MBP Feature

Apple Seeds Sixth Beta of macOS Monterey to Developers

Monday August 30, 2021 1:11 pm PDT by
Apple today seeded the sixth developer beta of macOS Monterey, the newest version of the macOS operating system. The sixth beta comes three weeks after Apple released the fifth macOS Monterey beta. Registered developers can download the beta through the Apple Developer Center and once the appropriate profile is installed, betas will be available through the Software Update mechanism in...