Shopify and BlackBerry to develop a COVID-19 Contact Tracing App
Updated: Aug 26, 2021
Outside of the usual news cycle of Shopify Developers focused on eCommerce businesses, offering Shopify Expert services for your Shopify Theme or Shopify Store, it has come to be that they are focused on the Pandemic's management of tracking and tracing. This is no Theme development effort, the design and development will differ in that there will be IOS/Android integrations, user experience, social media, and web development all involved in this effort.
Canada looks to engage both companies to develop a new app using Bluetooth and launch it towards the end of July 2020. Where in the USA Apple and Google are partnered to pull their resources and deliver a contact tracing app, Shopify and BlackBerry are Canada’s big-tech hitters to take on the challenge.
This is no Shopify App effort, it is going to be a sophisticated piece of software that will support infrastructure in contact tracing.
Much like the rest of the "Western World" where privacy and security are paramount when using your smartphone out in public spaces, the tracing app not only could lead to battery drainage but also open the door for data/security breaches of your personal information as the Bluetooth roams the surrounding smartphones to record and log bystanders running the same app. The roaming can add some vulnerability, as well as the data that is transmitted between devices.
The OS (Operating System) has to provide a way to operate an app for contact tracing – an API (Application Programming Interface) has been developed by Google and Apple in record time. Settings in your smartphone called “Exposure Notifications” have been implemented so that apps can then engage with the API, Bluetooth, and record contacts made. Ultimately, the user has to turn on this feature, select, and download the government recommended app. This public health Agency app gives the user the choice of whether or not to report their COVID-19 positive diagnosis.
Canadian Health Priority
Canada has reached just over 100K COVID-19 cases according to the WHO. It only represents individuals that have a reason to go out and get tested, where asymptomatic citizens most likely can carry the virus without any knowledge. The App is being developed will bridge the gap with proximity/exposure data to further understand the transmission exposure and movements of the virus.
The USA has been leading the charge on the architecture of the Operating System’s management and API, as well as the App’s expected functionality such that USA data privacy and security are respected and adhere to USA Laws. The United Kingdom had a centralized system of capturing data, however, usability shortcoming (Phone always ON) and data structure issues that did not meet privacy/security standards did an about-turn to adopt the Apple/Google model. In the APAC region, Singapore has launched its TraceTogether App for the public to use and trace exposures. India has put out its own App called Aarogya Setu by the Indian government and it is requiring employers and staff to download it and enable its operation.
Unlike popular apps that connect you to Facebook Messenger, process your credit card, or connects you to customer service - this app is only going to try to follow you so that by sharing your location it can correlate who else could have been sharing that same space. It could even have a countdown timer for the end of your self-isolating, and even live chat to medical services with a ticketing system if you need medical supplies. This method is more powerful than just information for website visitors to consume, it will use the smartphone's onboard tools to capture your movements and offer you products and services as needed if self-isolating.
It is refreshing to see that even in the eCommerce space, large players like Shopify and a smartphone incumbent such as BlackBerry band together to deliver solutions for contact tracing. In the hopes that data can help us learn, and map out the resurgence of the COVID-19 virus as the seasons change so that local governments can respond and set the appropriate policy to keep it from spreading and keep the vulnerable safe.