Apple releases mobility data trends for authorities to curb Covid-19 spread

Mobility data trends generated from Apple Maps requests may provide insights to health authorities looking for ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 Photo: Apple
Technology giant Apple on Tuesday released mobility data trends tool to help authorities mitigate the impact on Covid-19 globally. The mobility data tool is based on Apple Maps platform. Its reports are published daily and reflect requests for directions in Apple Maps.

The Apple 'Mobility Data Trends' website is more like the Google’s 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.

Apple does not provide the absolute number of requests or a specific number of people moving, instead expressing the data as a percentage of requests compared with its mid-January baseline.

Apple's data is more limited than what Alphabet Inc's Google has made available to public health officials.

Google nearly two weeks ago released data on more than 131 countries, comparing trips in recent weeks to recreational venues, train and bus stations, grocery stores and workplaces with a five-week period earlier this year.

For several countries, Google offers county-level data, which is helpful in countries such as the United States where lockdown orders are issued by county officials.

The Apple data, by contrast, shows only data for some cities, regions and countries and does not show results for entire U.S. states, including those without lockdown orders such as North and South Dakota.

The Apple data also does not capture trips where the user has not asked for directions from the Maps.

Apple said it is continuing to work with public health officials to identify what other data types or trends may be helpful.

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.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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