PH-made mobile app uses facial scan for contact tracing

MYEG Philippines, an IT company that has provided tech solutions to LGUs and government agencies, recently developed a contact tracing app using the company’s proprietary biotechnology system. The app, called MyEGuard, has a health diagnosis feature that performs a facial scan to check a user’s vital signs.

Using Bluetooth technology — a built-in feature in many smart devices that has already been used by several contact tracing platforms — users can give their consent to share their app data to a medical officer provided by their respective companies or health institutions. This “app data” will reveal who has been in close proximity with the user as long as certain conditions are met.

First, the app must be running in the background since it relies heavily on Bluetooth connectivity. Then, if any coronavirus patient or individual suspected with having coronavirus symptoms are in contact with the user for at least 30 minutes and within 10 meters, the encounter is stored locally on the user’s device.

The entire process will then be encrypted and updated in real-time in the app dashboard as long as the people around the user have activated Bluetooth wireless functionalities. 

The entire concept, however, has a few flaws. One, it assumes that every mobile phone user has Bluetooth functionality turned on. Second, utilizing facial scan to check the vitals is still unreliable. Although there are some platforms that have been introduced to measure respiratory and heart rates using infrared facial-image analysis, doing that on a smartphone poses some challenges.

In any case, it is still a technology that can benefit frontline agencies for a more convenient contact tracing that’s augmented by manual contact tracing efforts. Its feature that prompts government agencies to acquire Covid-19 patient information and track contact individuals can also be a precursor to a more seamless and proactive effort on how smartphone users and the authorities can help each other during times of a health crisis. 

The app is already available for free at the Google Play Store. It was released on April 24, with a recent May 17 update for UI enhancements.

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