Bluetooth SIG Adds Wearable Devices to the COVID-19 Exposure Notification Systems

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) announced that they are creating a specification that will enable wearable devices to participate in the existing smartphone-based Exposure Notification System (ENS). An Exposure Notification System (ENS) leverages Bluetooth® technology embedded in smartphones to inform people when they have been in proximity to someone who was later diagnosed with COVID-19. The Exposure Notification System created jointly by Google and Apple, is a well-known example of an ENS. The extension of ENS to wearables, which includes wristbands, will better address population groups where smartphone usage remains low, like children in primary schools and older adults living in care facilities. An initial draft of the specification is expected to be released and available for review within the next few months.

Typically deployed by government health agencies, all public ENSs to date have used Bluetooth® technology already embedded in smartphones to notify people when they have been in close contact with someone who was later diagnosed with COVID-19. Due to their broad adoption, smartphones represent an ideal foundation for launching an ENS. However, smartphones alone are not a practical approach to cover all segments of the population.

Elisa Resconi, a physics professor at the Technical University of Munich, stated that there are several population groups critical to managing the spread of diseases like COVID-19 with relatively low smartphone penetration, presenting a coverage challenge the smartphone-based Exposure Notification Systems. They believe including wearable devices in an ENS would be a very effective method for extending its reach to support these important groups.

Recognizing this need, more than 130 Bluetooth member companies have joined the Bluetooth SIG Exposure Notification Working Group (ENWG) to define a standardized method for adding support for wearable devices while preserving the same privacy and security protections of the ENS. The ENWG is open to all Bluetooth SIG member companies and serves as a centralized forum for discussion on the effective use of Bluetooth technology in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

Mark Powell, CEO of the Bluetooth SIG said it is incredibly inspiring to see the Bluetooth community’s collaboration in finding and creating innovative ways to leverage Bluetooth technology to address the COVID-19 pandemic. They are grateful for the dedication and commitment of the Bluetooth members and proud of their work in this important effort.

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