U of G app could improve COVID-19 contact tracing

A University of Guelph-led project may make contact tracing technology more accurate, helping to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Smart Contact Tracing, a smartphone app, ensures greater accuracy and privacy than other systems while identifying recent contacts infected with COVID-19 and reminding users to maintain physical distancing, says engineering professor Petros Spachos.

“The application we developed could be very useful as an upgrade to any contact tracing application available,” he says.

Apps perform well on phones that are “visible” to each other but lose accuracy when the devices are in a pocket, purse or backpack. The U of G app uses machine learning to improve accuracy in “hidden phone” scenarios from about 56 per cent to 87 per cent.

The app also “learns” to distinguish when the user is at home or in another private space and stops recording contact information there.

The researchers have worked with a Toronto wireless communication firm on development of the app.