Dedicated contact tracing apps may become the norm for bars and restaurants

  • A new app that helps bars and restaurants keep a record of people in the building to use in contact tracing.

    While the UK government's plans for an official contact-tracing app have fallen far short of expectations, other countries around the world are starting to get their apps in place. Northern Ireland is currently doing manual contact tracing by asking infected people about anyone they know they came in contact with, but this misses incidental contact such as public transport or a coffee shop.

    The idea behind contact-tracing apps is to record which people you've been in close proximity to throughout the day by using your phone's bluetooth connection, and then if you get coronavirus those people will be notified. Bluetooth is proving to be tricky for contact tracing apps, however, with detection rates varying depending on factors such as phone model and whether the user is inside a building.

    UK firm Zing has now released its own private contact-tracing app, but with a slight difference. The "Safe 2 Serve" app is provided to pubs and restaurants and allows them to quickly capture information on every customer who comes in the door, so there will be records of who was in the building at the same time as anyone who is later confirmed to be infected. Many restaurants are already keeping this information manually, and the app is designed to speed that up.

    The app works by having customers text their local bar or restaurant with their name and booking information. The establishment then responds to confirm that the person is OK to come in, and the customer gets a "Safe 2 Serve" badge to show staff when they arrive. The business then has a record of who was in the building and can follow up with contact tracing if required. The app then securely deletes the data after 21 days.

    Julian Hucker, CEO of Zing Dev Ltd, commented on the app, which was developed in 24 hours: "Last week when we were discussing the upcoming pubs and restaurants reopening, we had a thought: how would they capture customer information in a safe way? We quickly established that what was needed was a lightweight solution requiring no complicated setup for the venue, as well as no installation for customers. The answer was Safe2Serve."

    Source: Written based on press release, Safe 2 Serve

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    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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