Apple makes mobility data available to aid COVID-19 efforts

Aggregated Navigation Data available on Apple Maps provides mobility trends for cities and countries or regions.

Apple has announced the release of its mobility data trends tool via Apple Maps in order to support the efforts made in the way of combating COVID-19 throughout the world. The mobility data tool may have the potential to provide insightful information to local governments and health authorities. Moreover, it can also help by becoming the foundation for new public policies by showing the change in the volume of people driving, walking or taking public transit in their respective communities. 

Apple Maps does not associate the mobility data with the Apple ID of the user. Moroever, the history of the user’s location is not stored by Apple. The aggregated data, if collected, from Apple Maps can help indicate mobility trends for major cities and 63 countries and 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 the 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,” Apple reported on its website. 

Privacy has been built into the core of Apple Maps since day one. All the data which is collected in Maps including search terms, navigation routing, and traffic information is associated with random, rotating identifiers that are continually reset so that Apple has no clue or piece of information about any of your searches or movements. This enables Maps to provide a great experience while protecting user privacy.

Additional COVID-19 Efforts

Apple is keen on playing a key role in the response against the COVID-19 and has sourced and donated well over 20 million face masks for medical professionals on the front lines around the globe. Moreover, Apple is also making face shields by bringing together teams across the company and its suppliers alongside shipping 1 million face masks per week to the areas which are in need the most. For police, firefighters and paramedics, Apple helped Stanford Medicine build a new app for first responders to help screen their symptoms and, if needed, schedule a testing appointment.

Apple has also recently made upgrades to its apps and services making it easier for users to find information which they need using Siri and Apple Maps. All the information about COVID-19 can be taken from Siri Audio which briefs COVID-19’s latest information based on short podcasts and latest news provided by trusted news providers. 

Siri can also provide guidance and resources from the CDC if asked, “How do I know if I have coronavirus?” In Apple Maps, grocery, food delivery, and medical services are prioritized when searching nearby, and a curated collection of telehealth apps is available on the App Store. Apple is also providing content and services to parents, teachers and IT teams to help with the transition to virtual learning, including one-on-one training and numerous online resources.

In an attempt to accelerate contact tracing, Apple has collaborated with Google to enable the use of Bluetooth technology to aid health agencies and governments reduce the spread of the virus with user privacy and security central to the design. 

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