Science & Technology

Apple follows Google, creates Web site for monitoring mobility amid lockdowns

San Francisco, Apr 14 (efe-epa).- Apple on Tuesday opened to the general public a Web site on which people can consult mobility statistics by country, region and city since authorities around the world implemented movement restrictions, a tool similar to the one offered by Google two weeks ago.

The firm headed by Tim Cook is using aggregate data from which individual statistics and names have been expunged – thus protecting personal privacy – from its Apple Maps service to prepare graphics that show how pedestrian, automobile and public transportation mobility have evolved recently in assorted places.

Thus, for example, it can be seen that walking trips have fallen off by 93 percent in Spain compared with mid-January and foot traffic has been reduced in Colombia by 74 percent, and the use of public transportation has declined by 87 percent in Mexico City.

The statistics are accessible to the public via a Web page (https://www.apple.com/covid19/mobility) and the main aim of the service is to help authorities and healthcare officials to better understand the effects of the social distancing measures that have been widely decreed and, if necessary, to help officials make decisions on the basis of constantly updated data.

Apple said that its Maps application does not link or associate the mobility data with individual users and it does not preserve a list of the places visited by any given individual, and the information used to prepare the graphics comes from the gross number of user searches on how to get from one place to another.

In early April, Google began publishing reports that also use anonymized and generic data on the country – or, in some cases, regional – level to show how mobility habits have evolved during the coronavirus pandemic.

In Google’s case, the statistics are prepared using pre-existing data that were already public and individualized via Google Maps, where viewers can see in real time whether a store, restaurant or other space is more or less occupied than normal.

The data is divided into six different categories – stores and recreation, supermarkets and pharmacies, parks, public transport stations, workplaces and residential spaces – such that it is possible to observe trends in activity, for example, in parks in Spain since the quarantine there was implemented.

Apple and Google also announced last week an unprecedented alliance in an area of heavy competition in the tech industry and revealed that they are working together on two projects to use mobility data from people to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The idea is to take advantage of the ubiquity of Apple mobile systems like iOS and Google systems like Android (which together include almost all the US market and the markets of several Western countries) to collect and place at the disposal of health authorities movement and infection data among individuals that can let officials better monitor the spread of Covid-19 and make better predictions about the disease.

EFE

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