ETSI unveils its Report comparing worldwide COVID-19 contact-tracing systems – a first step toward interoperability

Sophia Antipolis, 2 February 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has stretched the planet’s health systems to their limits and tested the measures adopted to alleviate difficulties. Contact tracking or tracing to identify infected people has been one such example. However, contact tracing based on interviews with identified or suspected patients presents known weaknesses from previous pandemics. Turning to digital means in a world where global mobility is the rule was therefore of the essence.

ETSI has not been oblivious to the mitigation of the pandemic and its "Europe for Privacy-Preserving Pandemic Protection" (E4P) group is today releasing its first Report GR E4P 002, entitled “Comparison of existing pandemic contact-tracing systems”.

The Report includes the characterization of a representative series of apps, from among those currently available, ranging from the United States to Japan, as well as a list of the most relevant existing digital contact-tracing methods. The study also offers a comparative analysis of these different methods and, finally, outlines a series of challenges that are yet to be tackled.

Our work today is to enable better global pandemic contact-tracing solutions in the future. Unfortunately, this pandemic is not the first and will not be the last one the world will go through. As many of us commute from one country to another very often for business and leisure, interoperable applications represent one of the mitigation measures that can serve all citizens,” comments Miguel Garcia-Menendez, Vice Chair of the ETSI E4P Industry Specification Group. “We have already identified a series of challenges in our report and compared a number of different technologies and protocols. There is still a lot to achieve and we welcome all ETSI members and non-members to join the effort,” he adds.

ETSI E4P ISG’s next steps are focused on finalizing the definition of the general requirements of this type of solution; conducting an analysis of the mechanisms related to the devices (essentially smartphones) used; specifying the requirements of the back-end systems involved; and, finally, releasing a reference framework for the interoperability of the different existing digital tracing methods. Future stages will evaluate how to improve the systems specified and explore and develop new ones.

The Report is available for download.

About ETSI
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Claire Boyer
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