The University of Alabama at Birmingham has launched its anonymous exposure notification app — GuideSafe™ — to the general public.
Supported by Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funding, the app was built by UAB and Birmingham-based MotionMobs, in active collaboration with the Alabama Department of Public Health and integrating Google and Apple’s Exposure Notification System. The app works with the ADPH’s efforts to notify individuals of possible exposure to Covid-19 after a positive test result is presented.
With privacy and security in mind, users of the app receive a notification but they do not see whom the notification came from or to whom the notification has been sent — only the date of the possible exposure.
“The hope is that when people are in groups, they will encourage each other to download the GuideSafe Exposure Notification app as a way to keep everyone safe and healthy — and to keep Alabama open,” said Sue Feldman, RN, MEd, Ph.D., professor and director of graduate programs in health informatics at UAB. “This app relies on users to report their positive test results when they occur so that we all can take the right actions and mitigate the spread of Covid-19, together.”
Feldman led the development of the GuideSafe app with Assistant Professor Mohanraj Thirumalai, MSEE, Ph.D., and a team from UAB. Initially the app was only available to users with an education, or .edu, email address during its pilot phase.
Once the GuideSafe app is downloaded and users opt-in to the notification system, the app generates a random code for each user phone. This code then changes every 10 to 20 seconds to preserve security.
As users go about their day, all phones utilizing the GuideSafe app that are in close contact — within six feet — of others will exchange these random codes via Bluetooth. This exchange works even as the app is in the background, with users continuing to use their phones for other tasks.
When a self-reported and lab-verified positive Covid-19 test occurs, ADPH enables notification of all phones through a random code matching process using the last 14 days of data. If there is a match, GuideSafe will notify the user and facilitate assistance from ADPH.
“This technology is capable of giving us a better chance at beating this pandemic, but for it to truly be effective, it’s going to take a large percentage of Alabamians downloading this app and using it to report any positive cases,” said Feldman.
The app and the development of a robust re-entry testing platform primarily focused on Alabama’s colleges and universities received approximately $30 million of federal CARES Act money from Governor Kay Ivey earlier this year. The funds were part of approximately $1.9 billion in CARES Act funding the state received in response to the coronavirus pandemic.