Medical student has co-developed a program to evaluate location data to help reduce infection risk
Maxim Gleser came up with the idea four weeks ago in the waiting room of his doctor’s office. “Everywhere there was coughing, every seat was occupied, and no one knew if he was sitting next to a corona infected person or if he had the virus himself,” says the Hanoverian medical student. Together with an IT specialist and a Zurich doctor, he developed the so-called GeoHealthApp, which allows us to track who has had contact with whom and where there is an increased risk of infection. Test operation begins On Monday, she received the CE certificate as a medical device and is now expected to undergo the first test phase in real time during the week. In April, the next version will go online, with an interactive map showing areas with particularly high infection rates. All of this is intended to help users avoid particularly risky regions, according to the developers. Who was in contact, when, where and with whom? These questions are currently central, but processing in public authorities or health boards takes far too long to deal with the speed of virus spread. “We knew we needed digital communication for the problem,” says the 25-year-old. For this purpose, the app collects generally anonymous location data of its users, which according to Gleser are not personal. This data is then matched with information from people who have become infected, are also interested in app communication and voluntarily log in there. Before a Corona infected person does this, he must send a – blackened – medical report to Gleser’s team, which is then “checked counter-checked by medical students in a four-eyed principle,” as the idea-giver explains. Only when the evidence of an infection is clear, the data is uploaded in order to provide guidance for all users on the go. “After 14 days, they are automatically deleted,” Gleser promises.
Traffic lights show corona risk The GeoHealthApp is therefore based on the location data that people who have been shown to be infected with the coronavirus voluntarily share with the app’s operators. When another user calls the app, the artificial intelligence behind the application will determine in a few seconds whether there has been contact with a person infected with the Sars CoV-2 virus within the last 14 days – and thus the personal risk to a contagion in a certain period of time. “To quickly detect if you are in danger, there is a risk light that is displayed on the user’s mobile phone,” explains the budding physician. Green does not mean any risk, yellow represents a certain risk that the paths of the app user have crossed with an infected person. “If the traffic light is red, there has been contact for a long time.” The user will then receive immediate information via the app on how to proceed. The developers of the app, The GeoHealthApp gGmbH in the foundation, of course also have an answer to data protection concerns. “The use is voluntary, and the movement data of the app user does not leave the smartphone. It is therefore not possible to draw conclusions about the person,” Gleser emphasizes. Users would not be “tracked“, i.e. not personally persecuted – who participates remains anonymous on the net. “We want to avoid panic, but communicate as much as possible with the population.” It is also conceivable that the app will be used worldwide, Gleser says.