Ottawa-based Shopify volunteers launch COVID-19 exposure notification solution

The tool is meant to help governments launch their own exposure notification systems

A group of volunteers from Shopify have launched an exposure notification solution called COVID Shield to help track the spread of the virus.

COVID Shield is a tool that was created to help governments launch their own exposure notification systems. The developers note that it is based on the exposure notification technology provided by Apple and Google.

Shopify CEO Tobi Lutke stated on Twitter that “a lot of countries and regions have bet on the wrong technology approach to build contact tracing. We built COVID Shield so that everyone who needs to pivot can do so quickly and not start from zero.”

“The COVID Shield app, its server, and the web-based results portal are all designed to preserve personal privacy while helping people safely return to work,” the COVID Shield website reads.

The exposure notification solution is made up of three parts, including a mobile app, a server and a web-based portal. The mobile app runs in the background and doesn’t require any user interaction. It uses Bluetooth to collect and share random IDs with nearby phones that also have the app installed.

If a user has tested positive for the virus, they can choose to anonymously share their data to inform others of potential exposure. It is a voluntary process and is only possible with a positive test result confirmed by a healthcare professional.

Next, the server securely collects and stores random IDs uploaded from the app after a positive test results. It also generates temporary codes to allow people who have tested positive to upload their random IDs.

“The web-based results portal provides health care professionals unique temporary codes which can be shared with users who have tested positive for COVID-19,” the COVID Shield website reads.

The developers of the app say that for exposure notification systems to be effective, it is important for governments to launch applications that are able to work together. They outline that COVID Shield is flexible enough to be deployed at various levels of government. This can be done by enabling the server and mobile app to communicate with each other.

In terms of official contact tracing apps in Canada, Alberta is the only province to launch an app dedicated towards preventing the spread of COVID-19 so far.

However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently confirmed that the government is working with Apple and Google, along with several other companies, to develop a voluntary contact tracing app. He noted that once it is released, Canadians will be strongly advised to download it.