Apple has pushed out iOS 13.7 to all compatible iPhones and iPads today.
The software patch includes an update to the Covid-19 Exposure Notification platform that Apple built into iOS. The company developed the system with Google, who is pushing it to some Android devices.
The new Express notification system allows public health authorities to support coronavirus contact tracing without the need for a separate approved application. Phones that download iOS 13.7 will therefore be compatible with this system, but it is up to individual countries to integrate it into their Covid-19 response plans.
Apple and Google partnered in April to develop the platform agnostic API that would help put contract tracing tech in the pocket of millions with free software updates. It works by pinging other devices using Bluetooth Low Energy. If someone registers themselves Covid positive, the system can alert anyone who has been in range of that person’s phone that they should get a Covid test.
Before iOS 13.7, the API could only work in tandem with a third-party app that countries would have to develop, but now the system can technically work directly and without an app.
Countries who opt-in to use Apple and Google’s API in the Express format can control how notifications are sent out, and the public health information and advice displayed to users. Notably, users have to manually opt-in to the Exposure Notifications within the Settings app.
According to 9to5Mac, the US health authorities in Maryland, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington DC will be the first to opt-in to the Express system.
In a statement, Apple and Google said:
“As the next step in our work with public health authorities on Exposure Notifications, we are making it easier and faster for them to use the Exposure Notifications System without the need for them to build and maintain an app. Exposure Notifications Express provides another option for public health authorities to supplement their existing contact tracing operations with technology without compromising on the project’s core tenets of user privacy and security. Existing apps using the Exposure Notification API will be compatible with Exposure Notifications Express, and we are committed to supporting public health authorities that have deployed or are building custom apps.”