Apple responds to Matt Hancock because complaint tracking application cannot detect distances


Matt Hancock is facing a new storm over the NHS contact finder that failed today after its appearance, the government has injected more than £ 11 million into the failed project.

Government reports on transparency have shown that at least 11 contracts have been awarded to private companies for work on the project, with a total value of £ 11,297,811.

It is not clear how much money has been paid, or whether it is possible to recover some of it.

Evidence of the costs – which the ministers have refused to abandon so far – emerged after Hancock humbly admitted last night that the NHSX application was abandoned.

The software, originally promised for mid-May and touted as crucial to ending the lock, failed to spot 25% of nearby Android users and 96% of iPhones in a trial on the Isle of Wight.

Meanwhile, Apple and Google technology can spot 99% of close contacts using any type of smartphone – but Hancock said she couldn’t reliably say how far they were.

The clash came after Matt Hancock (pictured at the Downing Street briefing last night) humbly admitted that the NHSX app, once hailed by ministers as crucial to ending the lockdown, was abandoned

Nicola Sturgeon waded in the row today insisting that the mess `` justified '' his decision not to build Scotland's test and trace system around an `` untested application '' ''

Nicola Sturgeon floundered today insisting that the chaos “justified” his decision not to build Scotland’s test and trace system around an “untested application”

The application developed by the NHS did not work for people using Apple iPhones and actually went into standby mode, failing to detect nearby devices via Bluetooth (stock image)

The application developed by the NHS did not work for people using Apple iPhones and actually went into standby mode, failing to detect nearby devices via Bluetooth (stock image)


It is not clear why the NHS app was so worse than using Bluetooth to detect phones other than Apple / Google technology.

And officials have not explained why or how it is better to measure the distance between two phones.

The main difference between the two applications is the way they store data.

The two keep a diary of the people with whom someone came into close contact – but the NHS application would have kept the information in a centralized database, while the Google / Apple application is decentralized.

NHS application: lists on NHS servers

The NHSX app would create an alert whenever two users of the app are within Bluetooth range of each other and save it to the user’s phone.

Each person would essentially draw up a list of all the people with whom they have been in “contact”. This would be anonymized, so the lists were actually just numbers or codes, not lists of names or addresses.

If a person has been diagnosed with coronavirus or reports symptoms, all users of the application they were close to when they were considered infectious – this will vary from person to person – would receive an alert telling them that they were put at risk of COVID-19 – but he would not name the person who was diagnosed.

The NHSX insisted that it would delete people’s data when they got rid of the application, but not the data uploaded to the NHS server if they or a contact were positive.

Apple / Google: content on phones

In the decentralized approach of Apple and Google, meanwhile, the server and list item for this process is removed and the entire log is contained in someone’s phone.

This application works by exchanging a digital “token” with each phone that someone is within Bluetooth range over a fixed period.

If a person develops symptoms of the coronavirus or is positive, they can enter this information in the application.

The phone will then send a notification to all devices with which they have exchanged tokens during the infection window, to inform people that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

The server database will not be necessary because each phone will keep an individual log of Bluetooth profiles with which someone is close. These will then be linked anonymously to people’s NHS applications and alerts can be transmitted through this even after the person is out of Bluetooth range.

It is understood that if someone later deletes the Google / Apple application and closes their account, their data will be deleted.

Last night at the Downing Street briefing, the cabinet minister seemed to point to Apple: “Our application will not work because Apple will not change its system”.

But an Apple source told The Times today that it was not informed of the announcement or consulted on the collaboration.

“We don’t know what they mean by this hybrid model. They didn’t tell us about it, ”said the source.

On the idea that its version was less accurate at measuring distance than the government’s NHSX model, the source said: “The application was downloaded from six million in 24 hours in Germany, the Italians have had it since Monday, the Dutch government and the Irish government have it and there were no problems with proximity detection. “

MailOnline understands that Apple was aware of the government’s concerns about the accuracy of the model, but the company said Germany had concluded that it was “better than trusting people’s memories.”

Official documents analyzed by PA Media show that the software company Zuhlke Engineering has won more than £ 5 million for two application development and support contracts.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare has also awarded more than £ 4.8 million to developer VMware and its subsidiary Pivotal under three contracts for the creation of the application.

A number of other contracts have also been awarded to several other companies for work on application security testing, ranging from £ 67,000 to over £ 162,000.

In a series of interviews this morning, school minister Nick Gibb was unable to confirm whether a contract had been signed between the government and Google and Apple to develop the contact finder.

When asked if an agreement to develop the app had been made with the tech giants, the Minister of Education Standards told Sky News, “Well, that’s a question for (the secretary of the Health, Matt Hancock).

“He works with Google and Apple, I don’t know the details of the contracts they have. “

He added, “What I do know is that we are working with Google and Apple to resolve these issues with the system in order to make it robust and precise in the way it tracks and traces. “

Gibb said there is no point in deploying a system that then fails.

He said, “We want to have ambitious tracking and tracing plans, and that’s what the app offers, but it needs to be tested properly.

“There is no point in deploying a failed system because what you are asking people to do when contacted by the tracers is to isolate themselves and you should be able to trust the information.

Officials declined to reveal how much money was spent on the now scrapped NHSX application.

Hancock, appearing alongside NHS test and trace chief Baroness Dido Harding, couldn’t say when a tracking app would be ready – amid claims, it won’t be deployed until winter .

“We are not going to set a date … but I am confident that we will get there,” he said.

Apple and Google announced on April 10 that they will join forces to create the technology, by which time the NHS had already started working. All of the parties put their software into action about a month later, in mid-May.

NHS developers will now work alongside tech giants to try to launch its detection software and the distance measurement capability of the NHS app – which they said was significantly better – together to create a hybrid app that really works.

The Labor Party said “precious time and money” was wasted in the application fiasco, which represented “mismanagement” of the Covid-19 crisis, which killed more than 42,000 Britons die from the disease.

Here’s how the NHS contact tracking application collapsed:

  • When used on iPhones, the NHS app goes into background mode and stops registering nearby phones;
  • As a result, it was only able to detect 4% of possible contacts for Apple phone users. In contrast, it detected 75% of Android phone users;
  • Technology developed by Apple and Google could detect 99% of nearby phones, officials said, but couldn’t say how far away they were actually;
  • Health bosses said Apple / Google technology couldn’t tell someone 3m (9’8 ‘) with their phone in hand from someone 1m (3’3’) with him in his pocket;
  • Officials now want to merge the two, to have Apple / Google’s detection capability with the NHSX app’s ability to calculate distance.

NHS app has faced a series of setbacks since ministers announced it was under development, with experts raising serious privacy concerns, others saying it would not work in towers overcrowded where people live nearby, and constant delays postponing its launch date. first weekly then monthly.

But top politicians remained loyal to the technology and promised it would come to fruition.

Hancock told BBC Breakfast in May that it would be an “incredibly important part” of Britain’s fight against the virus.

Boris Johnson has repeatedly stated that the test and trace system, with the application as its centerpiece, would be “world-wide”.

The debacle prompted further speculation about Mr. Hancock’s position during the next reshuffle.

A government source admitted that this episode was a “mess”, adding: “He promised too much and under-delivered and we saw too much.


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