For a century, public health officials have contained pandemics by tracing outbreaks. COVIDsafe promises to do this – can we trust it?
How does contact tracking work? And did host Mark Pesce almost accidentally invent Bluetooth contact tracking during some experimenting back in 2005?
Dr. Genevieve Bell offers insights into the history of contact tracing – and how old ideas about sickness can be baked into the newest of our technologies.
Dr. Bell recently wrote a long and clear article on this topic for TECHNOLOGY REVIEW.
Toward the end of 2005, Mark Pesce did some ‘pinging’ of Bluetooth devices from his mobiles, and learned that a lot of other Bluetooth mobiles would answer his pings. He wrote it up in a paper:
The following year, working with artist John Tonkin, they created ‘Bluestates‘ – using Bluetooth contact tracking to generate ‘social graphs’ – maps of who associated with who – for ISEA 2006 in San Jose California. It got a fair bit of attention at the time, including a review in The New York Times. Here’s a short movie of how John Tonkin visualised the contact tracking data Mark Pesce gathered: