Aarogya Setu is an indigenous, COVID-19 Contact Tracing app of India, developed by National Informatics Center (GOI Body). Recently, Aarogya Setu has also become fastest downloaded app, reaching 50 million installations in just 13 days. Initially recommended by Government of India and now it is mandatory to install in smartphones. Let’s understand how this mobile app works.
Core idea of Aarogya Setu app is to trace and identify the COVID-19 infected patients. It also reflects each individual’s health status as Green, Orange and Red, based on the Contact Tracing records. By the end of this blog, you will be able to understand What is tech behind Aarogya Setu, how does Contact Tracing work and what are limitations of this technology.
Why Aarogya Setu is required?
Let’s first understand what is contact tracing. Contact tracing, in terms of COVID-19 is, finding all the probable persons who have come in contact with a COVID-19 infected patient. Contact Tracing method helps medical and administrative authorities identify the list of people endangered to this disease.
Government bodies like Medical and Administration authorities rely on offline sources and inquiries to trace the potential COVID-19 contacts. This is a time consuming and inefficient process. Aarogya Setu app, just like other Contact Tracing apps around the world, was developed by National Informatics Centre, Government of India. Other countries are also using similar Contact Tracing apps like COVIDSafe in Australia, NHS in UK and have also reported significant success over time.
Other than contact tracing, Aarogya Setu also helps in collecting many statistical inputs and generating important figures, like heat maps, to locate the containment zones. Heat Map is a data visualization technique to generate colored representation of magnitude of a phenomenon.
How does Aarogya Setu work?
Aarogya Setu collects few information from every app users and process those information to help user with his health status and medical team with their contact tracing job. How?
When Aarogya Setu app is active, it records few important information, like location of the user and details of all the persons who have came in contact with him, every 15 minutes. In technical terms, this contact tracing mobile app, stores the location of the user or host and unique Id (DiD) of all the app users who have come in Bluetooth range of host. Later, at end of the day, algorithm written in Aarogya Setu, processes these raw data and generates useful information.
Apart from contact tracing, Aarogya Setu provides some other useful features like Self Assessment, COVID-19 stats and E-pass, a QR code granted as medical pass.
As claimed by National Informatics Center, this app does not store user information to server (Hosted by Government of India), until and unless,
- User has reported himself as COVID-19 affected.
- User has reported COVID-19 symptoms.
- User has came in contact with any other COVID-19 patient.
Data, collected by app, is stored locally in phone for 30 days and it will be wiped out automatically post expiration period, given user is not infected or has not come in contact with other infected person.
Data Stored on server will be valid for 45 days in case user is COVID-19 suspect, and 60 days in case user is infected with COVID-19.
Data sharing has been made easy with latest geolocation sharing and Bluetooth technology. It is mandatory to keep the location services and Bluetooth, turned on for the app to function.
Is Aarogya Setu or any other contact tracing App efficient?
Answer is no. Majority of the mobile device market is covered by either iOS or Android Operating System. Both of the operating system companies do not allow easy tweak in their privacy prone modules due to security reasons.
It is not easy to share information via Bluetooth in Apple or Google Operating Systems. Aarogya Setu or any other Contract Tracing Application users must keep their Application running in foreground with Bluetooth and Location services enabled. It is useless if devise’s Bluetooth is off and most important, if app is not running in foreground.
A Software Developer and Data Journalist by profession, Joshua Byrd has shared how inefficient Contact Tracing technology is, in one of his tweets.
Because people seem interested here's some video of the COVIDSafe app failing on iPhone. It is literally impossible to broadcast the UUID needed for the app to work without the screen on and the app in the foreground. pic.twitter.com/X5lpyeKL1A
— Joshua Byrd (@phocks) May 1, 2020
Well, here is some good news. Google and Apple has come up together to develop APIs for efficient Contact Tracing. Google CEO, Sundar Pichai has mentioned about API, which will share data through Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmissions. Read more about their dual partnership and plans here.
How to use Aarogya Setu effectively?
Aarogya Setu comes handy to alarm you from infected person’s vicinity as well as alarm others if you are infected. If you are out of your house in the Red Zone, keep the app running in foreground for some time to make sure you are at safe corner.
Aarogya Setu also provides feature for self assessment. It is recommended to self assess yourself in case of any symptom. Application will share the information with Medical bodies in case of any COVID-19 symptoms are reported in self assessment.
E-pass is also one of the useful feature that is enabled in this App. E-pass is a unique QR code, generated for every user and contains the user’s COVID-19 historical data.
You can watch this YouTube video to get the fair idea about how to use Aarogya Setu App for good results.
Data privacy concerns over Aarogya Setu.
Aarogya Setu is in controversy because of Data privacy concerns. Users are worried about their private information like contact detail, travel detail, exposed on server . National Informatics Center, government body who developed Aarogya Setu, has mentioned in it’s Privacy Statement that data stored on server are safe and will be erased once pandemic is over. Since there is already an effective data protection bill, Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, Indian government should be obliged to abide by these rules.