Researchers at the University of California Irvine have developed a smartphone application that uses QR codes to trace if users are potentially exposed to COVID-19. The TrackCOVID app allows users to host or join a registered checkpoint in public spaces that people converge or frequent, such as grocery stores. Users log their interactions by scanning the QR code to check in and the app creates an anonymous graph of interactions to trace for potential exposure to the virus.
“If the customer happens to be at an elevated risk level, they’ll see an alert on their screen. If enough public places are doing this, then a lot of contact tracing will happen without any users making a conscious effort other than scanning a QR code when they go shopping. From there, I think people will start to see the value of the app and begin using it to create checkpoints for their private interactions as well,” co-author Brandon Lehrich said.
The team assured that despite tracking users, the app will protect its users’ privacy. Should any user test positive for COVID-19 infection, the app will alert those they interacted with for exposure to the virus without releasing the infected individual’s identity. The app is currently in Beta but interested parties may already participate using the TrackCOVID web app.