UK’s NHS releases COVID-19 contact tracing app
While vaccines for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic remain in development, one of the most powerful tools is the art of contact tracing.
Contact tracing is a long established tool in the field of outbreak control involving researching the movements of an individual confirmed to be infected and then contacting those who may have come into contact with her.
Usually a manual endeavour, the sheer scale of the global pandemic has led to countries and tech companies pioneering new methods of tracing using that ubiquitous piece of technology in all of our pockets: mobile phones.
Using bluetooth signals sent periodically, an application can log the period of time in which the user has been in contact with others who also have the app. If someone then notifies the app that they have received a positive COVID-19 test, anybody who has recently been in contact will be alerted.
The UK’s app will tell users to self-isolate for 14 days in such an eventuality, and is also capable of identifying outbreak hotspots. All over-16s in England and Wales are being advised to download the app, which includes complementary features such as the overall level of risk in the user’s local area and a symptom checker.
While the basics remain the same, there are numerous approaches to providing such apps. Back in June, the its approach to developing the app from a centralised to a decentralised model favoured by tech companies such as Apple and Google after privacy fears were raised.
That means any data is processed on the user’s phone anonymously, rather than being sent to a central database.
Microsoft: Building a secure foundation to drive NASCAR
Microsoft is a key partner of The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and together they are driving ahead to create an inclusive and immersive new fan experience (FX).
These long-term partners have not only navigated the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic with the use of Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365, but are now looking to a future packed with virtual events to enhance the FX, well beyond NASCAR’S famous Daytona racetrack.
“Together, we've created a secure environment that's allowed for collaboration, but the future is all about the fans”, said Melinda Cook, General Manager for Microsoft South USA Commercial Business, who cited a culture of transparency, passion, adaptiveness, and a growth mindset as to why this alignment is so successful.”
“We've partnered to create a fluid, immersive experience for the users that is supported by a secure foundation with Microsoft in the background. We are focused on empowering and enabling customers and businesses, like NASCAR, to reach their full potential. We do this with our cloud platform which provides data insights and security.”
“Our cloud environment allows NASCAR to move forward with their digital transformation journey while we are in the background,” said Cook who highlights that Microsoft is helping NASCAR
- Empower employees productivity and collaboration
- Improve fan engagement and experience
- Improve environment security and IT productivity
- Improve racing operations
Microsoft Teams, which is part of the Microsoft 365 suite, enabled employees to work remotely, while staying productive, during the pandemic. “This allowed people to provide the same level of productivity with the use of video conference and instant messaging to collaborate on documents. Increased automation also allows the pit crews, IT, and the business to focus on safety, racing operations, and on the fan experience,” said Cook.
“We have started to innovate to create a more inclusive fanbase, this includes using Xbox to give people the experience of being a virtual racer or even leveraging some of the tools in Microsoft Teams to have a virtual ride along experience.”
“These environments are how we create a more inclusive and immersive experience for the fans. We're working on a virtual fan wall which allows people from new locations to participate in these events,” said Cook, who pointed out Microsoft was also helping bring legacy experiences alive from NASCAR’s archives.
“At Microsoft we can take it one level further by letting fans know what it's like to see the pit crew experience, the data and all the behind-the-scenes action. We will continue to improve automation with machine learning and artificial intelligence, from marketing to IT operations to finance to racing operations,” said Cook.
Christine Stoffel-Moffett, Vice President of Enterprise Technology at NASCAR, said: “Microsoft is one of our key partners. They have been instrumental in helping the NASCAR enterprise technology team re-architect our Microsoft systems to ensure an advanced level of security across our environment, contribute to our business outcomes, and focus on fan experience.”