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New coronavirus tracing app to offer ‘Fitbit-style- benefits and QR check-ins – report

Remember the coronavirus contact-tracing app we were supposed to have access to already? Well, the government is still working on it and reportedly planning to revamp it once again.

A Sky News report says the latest plans for the app involve “Fitbit-style” alerts that could provide additional benefits to the public, as well as warning they may have been exposed to Covid-19.

The use of the Fitbit-style alerts is a bit misleading because the app isn’t going to log step counts and heart rate and that sort of thing. However, it could provide alerts on how many people the user has come into contact with and the current ‘R’ number in the local area.

The report said the alerts could “remind people that the app is working and nudge them into safer behaviours.”

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NHSX, the health service’s innovation division, is reportedly investigating QR codes that could be placed outside of small businesses that would encourage users to check-in. Then, if there’s an outbreak associated with that business, the alert would encourage visitors to self-quarantine.

“We noticed you checked into Pret the other day. There’s been an outbreak, please stay inside for a couple of weeks,” is how a source described the new feature.

The reported desire to revamp the experience is out of a belief more people would be inclined to adopt the opt-in app if there were more perceived personal benefits. The source described it as appealing to “‘me’ rather than ‘we'”.

It might be a winning strategy considering there is plenty of public scepticism surrounding the contact-tracing app, largely due to the privacy concerns involved. However, by making it a tool that will help the user stay safe, then there might be more people willing to jump aboard.

The plans will depend on whether they jive with the Apple and Google restrictions on what the app can do. After much deliberation and dawdling, the back end platform built by Apple and Google will now be the basis for the NHS app.

“You can’t use safe-entry QR codes to drive adoption,” the source said. “Apple and Google say that encodes some notion of location and is therefore not allowed.”

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