The NHS Track and Trace App Delay May be a Bluetooth Issue

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Earlier today we posted about news that the NHS track and trade app was to be delayed again, and probably wouldn’t come out this month. That report in The Times said the delay was down to refining the app based on feedback from the Isle of Wight test. Now we have a few more details, and it seems the Bluetooth part of the app is the part causing issues.

According to BBC News, a second version of the app was due to begin testing on the Isle of Wight on Tuesday, but that has been postponed by the government. Why? Apparently the main issue is down to Bluetooth problems, specifically using Bluetooth as a way to estimate distance.

The original explanation of the app suggested that the strength of the Bluetooth signal would be how the NHS app detects how close people (or their devices) are to each other. But according to research from Trinity College Dublin, the signal can vary based on a large number of factors beyond distance. Factors like whether devices are in bags, how people are walking past each other, whether the signal has to travel through people, and soon.

So clearly things aren’t working out as planned, and it’s these technical issues, and not the government’s insistence that it’s better to have a network of human contact tracers first, that have led to the delays. But hey, other countries are working on this issue as well, because Bluetooth isn’t exclusive to the NHS app.

But on top of this, ministers are also said to be considering switching over to the contact-tracing API developed by Apple and Google (again), as so many other countries are doing. It doesn’t seem likely, however, since those in charge believe they’re better off going at it alone instead of working under Apple and Google’s constraints.

Clearly the government thinks it knows better, when the reality is they’re probably the furthest thing from clued-in. At least that’s what all the news we’ve heard so far suggests. [BBC News]

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

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