This fall, Oregon will launch a pilot project for a contact tracing technology that allows people to use their cell phones to find out if they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus.
The pilot project will have a goal of 30,000 participants, according to the Oregonian. If state officials deem the technology effective, it could become widely available at the end of this year or in early 2021.
According to Dr. Timothy Menza, a senior health adviser for Oregon Health Authority, the digital contact tracing system will be both voluntary and completely anonymous. It uses Bluetooth signals from cell phones to record anonymized identifiers for phones in close proximity, determining how close and how long phones are near one another.
The Oregonian reported that “the technology allows for more thorough tracing efforts, allowing notification among people whose identities might not be known to an infected person – such as someone who rode the same bus, ate at the same restaurant or attended the same party.”
While some Oregonians may not participate due to security concerns related to proximity technology, officials say the technology could help slow the spread of coronavirus.
“Knowledge is power when it comes to stopping the spread of COVID-19, and this pilot project will help people make informed decisions to keep themselves healthy, while protecting individual privacy,” Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement earlier this week.
A University of Oxford study estimates that cases and hospitalizations could decline if just 15 percent of the population uses the technology, according to Menza. The technology has already been utilized in other locations, including Scotland, where a new contact tracing app was downloaded 600,000 times.
Neighboring states, including Washington, California, Colorado, and Nevada are also embracing this new technology. While the software is not yet accessible to Oregonians, it will be available through Apple and Google Play.
By Jada Krening