Apple makes Maps users’ mobility data available to fight COVID-19
Cupertino: In a bid to help health authorities further mitigate the impact on COVID-19 globally, Apple has released users mobility data trends tool from Apple Maps that will provide aggregated mobility data to public health officials.
This mobility data can provide helpful insights to local governments and health authorities and may also be used as a foundation for new public policies by showing the change in volume of people driving, walking or taking public transit in their communities.
The new Apple ‘Mobility Data Trends’ website is more like the earlier Google initiative that is now offering user location data via its Maps to help public health officials spot increase or decrease of movement across high-level categories of places, to help them flatten the curve of coronavirus pandemic.
“Maps does not associate mobility data with a user’s Apple ID, and Apple does not keep a history of where a user has been,” the company said in a statement late Tuesday.
Using aggregated data collected from Apple Maps, the new website indicates mobility trends for major cities and 63 countries or regions.
The information is generated by counting the number of requests made to Apple Maps for directions.
The data sets are then compared to reflect a change in volume of people driving, walking or taking public transit around the world.
“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,” said Apple.
Data collected by Maps, like search terms, navigation routing, and traffic information, is associated with random, rotating identifiers that continually reset, so Apple doesn’t have a profile of your movements and searches.
“This enables Maps to provide a great experience, while protecting user privacy,” said the company.
Among other COVID-19 initiatives, Apple said it has sourced and donated over 20 million face masks for medical professionals on the front lines around the world.
Apple has also brought together teams across the company and its suppliers to design and produce face shields, and is shipping 1 million face masks per week to the areas that need them most.
“Siri Audio Briefs for COVID-19 help customers receive the latest news and information about the pandemic through short podcasts from trusted news providers”.
In Apple Maps, grocery, food delivery and medical services are prioritized when searching nearby, and a curated collection of telehealth apps are available on the App Store.
To accelerate contact tracing, Apple recently launched a joint effort with Google to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.