NotifyMe Check-in is a new smartphone app designed to help stop the spread of SARS-COV-2. It uses a protocol developed primarily at EPFL by some of the people who created the DP3T protocol, which is the basis for the SwissCovid app.
NotifyMe is rolled out at EPFL in a pilot test since 18 January.
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EPFL is an ideal place to test the app as there are many meetings in which presence tracing is relevant. The pilot tests are coordinated by the Department of Security, Safety and Facilities Operations (DSE).
Since 18 January, QR Codes have been posted in several meeting rooms, TP facilities and staff cafeterias (at the entrances and on tables). Users are asked to install the app and scan the QR code when they enter the room, in order to store that location – in an encrypted format – on their smartphone.
If the cantonal public-health authorities identify rooms and cafeterias that an infected individual has visited, they inform the DSE. In case one of these rooms is part of the pilot, the DSE launches the process allowing every other attendant to receive an alert.
The NotifyMe Check-in app was developed by Ubique, the company that’s behind the SwissCovid app. It employs the CrowdNotifier protocol, which was developed mainly at EPFL by part of the team that created the DP3T protocol for SwissCovid. NotifyMe will be deployed in pilot tests at EPFL beginning on 18 January.
NotifyMe aims to help stop the spread of SARS-COV-2 by notifying people who were in a room or at an event (such as in a public building, meeting room or classroom) at the same time as an infected individual.
The app works in a decentralized manner, it does not collect any personal data and does not feed into any kind of central database. The protocol is described on GitHub, and the code is publicly available.
- Setting up the system at an event
The person organizing the event (such as at a bar, restaurant, meeting room or private residence) generates two QR codes on the NotifyMe app: an entry code that should be posted at the venue’s entrance and/or on tables, and a tracing code which is kept private in a safe place. If the event is held at EPFL, the tracing code is securely stored with the DSPS.
- When participants arrive
Event participants (or customers entering the location) should scan the entry QR code using the NotifyMe app as they arrive. If they don’t have the app yet, the QR code leads them to a place to install it. The app will store an encrypted record for that event along with the date and time they checked-in. These locations will also be stored explicitly in a local diary to assist the user in case they need to follow a tracing process. The user can delete entries of the diary, and then only the encrypted record would be stored.
- When participants leave
When participants leave the event (or customers exit the location), they need to indicate this in the app (which regularly sends reminders for users to indicate when they leave).
- If a participant finds out they’re infected
If a participant (or customer) tests positive for COVID-19, the public-health authorities will carry out contact tracing and identify all the locations and events the individual attended before showing symptoms. The authorities will notify the event organizers and location managers (the DSPS is the contact for EPFL) and indicate the exact date and time the individual was present, but will not give the individual’s name.
- Activating the tracing QR codes
Once notified, the event organizer or location manager (the DSPS in the case of EPFL) scans the tracing QR code they had stored in a secure place using the NotifyMe app, and uploads the information (a decryption key) to a server managed by the public health authorities.
- Notification process
The NotifyMe app downloads the list of decryption keys every two hours and attempts to decrypt the codes stored on the smartphone. If it succeeds, that means the user was at the same event or location as an infected person. The app then displays an alert. The user is instructed to self-isolate in order to avoid potentially infecting others, and to be tested. Please note that, just like with standard contact tracing systems, it may not be possible to strictly protect users’ identities if an event had only a few participants who all know each other.
No, none. The app locally stores only the information in the entry QR code and the date and time the user arrives and leaves.
No, the app does not use either Bluetooth or GPS. It uses only the information contained in the QR codes.
SwissCovid runs in the background and can detect situations where you may have come into close contact with an infected individual, such as on a train or in a store. It uses Bluetooth technology to calculate the physical distance between two people. On the other hand, NotifyMe must be manually activated when you attend an event. It will send you an alert if you have been in a closed space with an infected individual and if you yourself may have been infected, even if you remained at least 1.5 meters apart (such as if the room was not sufficiently ventilated).
Technically, yes. If NotifyMe is rolled out across Switzerland, it can replace all related apps. But for now, event organizers must still keep attendance lists (either electronically or on paper) so that participants who do not have the app can be contacted.
- iOS: Requires iOS 10.0 (iPhone 5.0) or later.
- Android: Requires Android 6.0 or higher.
If you test positive for the virus, yes. The public-health authorities will inform the organizers of events you have attended regardless of whether you have the app. But if you attend an event where another participant is infected, you will only be notified if a back-up attendance list was kept so that the public-health authorities can find you.