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NHSX opens up code for coronavirus contact tracing app

13/05/20

Mark Say Managing Editor

NHSX has made the code for the coronavirus contact tracing app open source.

Hand holding phone

It has published the code for the app – which is currently being piloted on the Isle of Wight – on GitHub and said it would welcome technical feedback from developers and security researchers.

The organisation’s head of technology Terence Eden said the code has been made available under the Open Source Initiative's MIT Licence, under which it can be copied and redistributed. AI keys have not been included, which means that any self-built apps will not be able to receive or broadcast the contact tracing information gathered by the NHSX app.

“We are pleased to be working with several international health care systems and are grateful for their advice in developing this code,” he said. “We will also be open sourcing the backend code shortly.”

Test, trace and trace

The app has been developed by NHSX to speed up contact tracing and quickly identify people at risk as part of the ‘test, track and trace’ programme in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

It depends on Bluetooth connection between users to record contact, and if one reports symptoms of the virus will then alert others if its algorithms indicate there has been ‘significant contact’.

Eden said that, while the public version does not use third party analytics, a closed beta version is collecting some volunteers’ data for performance analytics and A/B testing.

Image from NHSX, Open Government Licence v3.0

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