Currently available for CSE students, faculty and staff as a pilot study for UB wide deployment, PocketCare S is a bluetooth low energy (BLE) solution which enables smartphones to send and receive anonymous beacon signals. It checks the distance between a smartphone and another beacon (or smartphone running PocketCare S) to see if they are close to each other (less than two meters). If so, the smartphone records the duration a close encounter with another beacon. PocketCare S is designed to report social distance information without collecting or revealing any personally identifiable information about any specific individual.
PocketCare S provides each user with the number of other users who have been in close proximity with the user on an hourly and daily basis, as well as other relevant information at the workplace. It also reports to the user the duration of the close encounter sessions the user had, and alerts the user if the duration of the current session exceeded a certain threshold.
An analytics dashboard will provide both app users and administrators with the social distance information aggregated from all users, such as the total number and duration of the close encounters in the workplace. Viewers will be able to see the number of app users who have had more (or less) than a given number of minutes of close encounters. This information is meant to empower both app users and administrators to practice and encourage good social distancing in the workplace.
By design, PocketCare S currently does not use the close encounter information to automatically notify app users of exposure to another app user who has tested positive with flu or viruses such as COVID-19. Instead, it provides the information to authorized health professionals to perform contact tracing.
PocketCare S is built upon another application, called PocketCare, developed five years ago by CSE faculty and students at the University at Buffalo to track flu/virus propagation through close contact, and used by many volunteers. The data collected has also been used to model and predict flu/virus propagation in a paper titled "PocketCare: Tracking the Flu with Mobile Phones Using Partial Observations of Proximity and Symptoms." PocketCare S is a second generation of PocketCare, where “S” also stands for “social distance.”
Disclaimers: (1). PocketCare S is intended to measure social distance on UB's campus although it may also be used for other SUNY campuses and other pre-defined premises; (2). Due to inherent limitations of the smartphone technology, PocketCare S does not guarantee that the information on the number, duration, or distance of the close encounters is accurate. The actual values may be above or below the estimated values; (3). PocketCare S provides links to other websites, which may or may not collect personally identifiable information, independent of PocketCare S.
You can subscribe below to be notified by email of any update. Your email address will only be used for receiving notifications pertaining to PocketCare S and will not be used by the PocketCare S app when you download and install it on your phone.
Email the PocketCare S Development Team at email@example.com
To provide PocketCare S users (and administrators) information on the number (and duration) of close encounters, the app does not need and does not collect any private information about an individual person. Instead, each phone running the app generates a random name to be its virtual Bluetooth (VBT) name every hour, and then advertises this VBT name to other phones. Each phone, after collecting the VBT names of other close-by phones, displays the information on the number and duration of close encounters collected by itself on the phone, and also sends the information to the app server. The app server will aggregate the information from all users on campus, and make such aggregated information (instead of information about any particular individual) available to the analytics dashboard.
It is worth noting that no other users will be able to predict the VBT name to be used by your phone and will therefore not be able to track you. In addition, the app server assigns another random number, to be referred to as App Client ID, to each instantiation of the app on a user’s phone, and this App Client ID cannot be used to identify a specific phone or individual. In fact, the App Client ID changes every time a user re-installs the app. Accordingly, neither other app users nor the app server will have any personally identifiable information.
To perform contact tracing, authorized personnel need to be able to identify app users. To meet such needs, a separate database is created as a result of authenticating each app user using UB’s Single Sign On (SSO). This separate database contains each app user’s UBITName (and email address), but no other personally identifiable information such as phone number or address. It can only be accessed by authorized personnel and is used for contact tracing purposes only.
The app requires the GPS to be turned on at all times in order (1) for the Bluetooth scanning to work, and (2) for geo-fencing to work (i,e, to determine if a close encounter with another beacon occurs on a campus or not). However, no GPS location information is stored on the phone or the server. In particular, the GPS location information is used only for geo-fencing purposes: i.e., to identify if an app user is on campus or off campus, but not specifically where on campus or off-campus. In other words, the app does not track any individual whether on or off campus.
More information about how Pocketcare S works is provided below.
Help you learn about and practice safe social distancing.
Stats on the number and duration of close encounter sessions.
Access the website for "COVID-19: UB Planning and Response"
Only anonymous data (no personal data) is collected.
Required for discovering nearby beacon devices.
Required for beacon scanning but no location data is collected.
If you have questions or comments about the PocketCare S app, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Your feedback is appreciated.
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