NIST Developing New Exposure Notification System to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19
Senior researchers at the Advanced Network Technologies Division at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have begun developing a unique contact tracing system to be utilized during the current COVID-19 pandemic and in future crises. NIST is supporting the initiative through engaging multidisciplinary scientists and engineers to come up with a new solution built off the Exposure Notification System that Google and Apple partnered to develop. While Google and Apple focused on contract tracing through smartphone technology, NIST is working to expand the realm of devices that can be used to track the spread of disease.
NIST’s own system under development focuses specifically on a wearable device that is adaptable to many users, including children and the elderly, who may not be able to fully utilize a smartphone. Further, a separate device specifically for contact tracing of disease helps alleviate privacy concerns that many have regarding using their smartphone for public data collection.
Nader Moayeri, one of the NIST scientists working on the project, writes “people may have a lot of personal data on their phones and may be reluctant to install an exposure notification app that interacts with health authorities [or] they may be concerned about the unauthorized extraction and use of the data on their phones.”
Developers are working specifically to keep the costs of the market-ready device to below $10 to ensure affordability and hope to have the device in the hands of users during the current pandemic, but recognize the long-term advantages of creating a distributing a device now, ahead of future global pandemics.
As always with NIST, scientists are focusing on the accuracy of the devices to minimize false alarms or false positives. Developers intend to be highly specific, as problems in either direction (false positives or false negatives) could completely undermine the reliability and trustworthiness of the system.
For specific information on how NIST researchers are developing the device, please visit: https://www.nist.gov/blogs/taking-measure/developing-exposure-notification-system-blunt-spread-covid-19-and-future.