Apple's 'COVID-19 Mobility Tool' Weighs Social Distancing Status With Apple Maps Data

Apple's new COVID-19 Mobility Tool uses Apple Maps data to assess the status of social distancing efforts in various regions.
Brad Bergan
Image formatted to fit. Tim Cook fanpage / Facebook

Apple launched a new tool on Tuesday capable of weighing the status of social distancing measures amid the coronavirus outbreak in different geographical areas, reports CNBC. Called "COVID-19 Mobility Tool," the software collects anonymous data from Apple Maps and works similarly to Google's efforts via Google Maps.


Apple Mobility Tool weighs social distancing amid COVID-19

Users can input a city or region and see a graph displaying the status of social distancing efforts in a given area. It's designed to help healthcare professionals and government officials, so they can download crucial information to see if the general populace is remaining inside or roaming the area against officials' suggestion.

Apple said it generates critical information for the new COVID-19 Mobility Tool by "counting the number of requests made to Apple Maps for directions," according to CNBC.

Apple Mobility Trends NYC
A chart of social distancing trends in New York City. Source: Apple Mobility Trends Chart / Apple

UPDATE April 14, 2:40 PM EDT: Social distancing amid coronavirus crisis

The example of the new tool above shows a sharp decline in walking and transit directions, and also requests for driving in New York City since March.

"The data sets are then compared to reflect a change in volume of people driving, walking or taking public transit around the world," said Apple in a release, according to CNBC. "Data availability in a particular city, country, or region is subject to a number of factors, including minimum thresholds for direction requests made per day."

Apple collects information without capturing Apple ID, so the process never knows which individual it is including, or what they are doing. Apple added that it will update the information every day so the public, frontline healthcare workers, and governments have the most up-to-date data possible.

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This comes on the heels of a recent announcement from Google and Apple of a new and forthcoming coronavirus tracking system for both iOS and Android. The new system will track the spread of the novel coronavirus, helping users share data via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmissions, in addition to other apps with official approval from health organizations, according to a Google blog post.

The forthcoming tracking system — due for public release mid-May — will use short-range communications based on Bluetooth to establish voluntary networks, to trace recent contact between users. The new apps will also alert users who have been in close proximity to users who voluntarily self-report as having contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus.

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