Swiss institutes work on decentralized application for tracking Covid-19 infections

The secure identification of persons whom one has had contact with, could be an effective tool to combat the spread of COVID-19. With the support of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, an international consortium including EPFL and ETH Zurich is developing a tracking app.

Due to the corona crisis, applications for digital contact tracing are currently being discussed and planned. The distances travelled and whereabouts of infected patients provide important information on the spread of the disease. In South Korea, location-based emergency messages were sent to users based on such data to inform people who were in the vicinity of a confirmed case.

This type of data collection brings the issue of data protection to the forefront. For two months now, researchers from EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) and ETH (Swiss Institute of Technology) Zurich, among others, have been working on a decentralised solution that also takes into account the problems surrounding data protection.

The project, which runs under the name DP-3T (Decentralized Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing), is a joint project of various educational institutions and organizations. In addition to the two federal institutions, researchers from KU Leuven, TU Delft, University College London, the Helmholtz Centre for Information Security (CISPA), the University of Oxford and the University of Turin are also involved. The scientists are complemented by the Swiss software company Ubique and PocketCampus.

Application aims to minimize spread of Covid-19 while ensuring data protection

DP-3T is a secure, decentralized system based on the Bluetooth Low Energy Standard. The aim is to simplify the process of identifying people who have come into contact with a Covid-19 infected person. The system developed is intended to slow down the spread of the virus. The privacy of the users should also be respected, thus ensuring the highest level of data protection.

In Switzerland, the DP-3T efforts are supported by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (SFOPH) and other federal offices. The national coordination of the project is carried out within the framework of the Federal Council’s Covid-19 Science Task Force.

Application to be finalised by mid-May

On 21 April, the Director General of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (SFOPH) confirmed that EPFL, together with ETH Zurich, had concretized the goal of completing the decentralized application by 11 May at the latest. The application will be based on the DP-3T concept of the EPFL and will use both Google and the Apple APIs for contact tracking. The solution of the two educational institutions is currently still under development. The software is available on GitHub as an open source protocol.

Bitcoin donations for fight against Covid-19

The epidemic is also being fought on other fronts in the decentralized world. After a fundraising campaign by the Italian Red Cross was able to achieve its goal after only three days, the organization is now asking for further donations in the form of Bitcoin. Other aid organizations have also decided to accept monetary donations in the form of digital currency. Unfortunately, however, these new possibilities do not only attract donations from charities, but also from fraudsters. Via fraudulent e-mails that appear to be from the WHO (World Health Organization), criminals try to steal money illegally.

*Originally published in German at

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