Coronavirus Contact Tracing using Bluetooth Low Energy and Smartphones

Spachos, Petros | $50,000

Ontario University of Guelph 2020 NSERC Alliance COVID-19 Grant

Contact tracing is of critical importance in preventing the further spread of infectious disease. Usually, such a task is performed manually through a few authorized personnel. However, it takes time for the information to reach the people who are very likely to be in close contact with the infected patient. Motivated by the urgent need for an effective contact tracing method, in this project we will develop a novel Smart Contact Tracing (SCT) system by exploiting the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals on the smartphone. Through a smartphone application, the system will classify the immediate contacts into high risk and low risk, according to their proximity from a person and the duration of the interaction. Additionally, the introduced SCT will use the proximity information to trigger a real-time alert when the recommended physical distancing is violated. The proposed contact tracing method is securely designed to prevent possible information leaks. We leverage the beaconing feature of BLE to broadcast an encrypted packet when the user is in the public space. Since the beaconing packet is transmitted through non-connectable advertising channels, no nearby devices can access the smartphone intentionally. Furthermore, the packet is encrypted with a piece of signature information that is unique and impossible to be duplicated by any device on other occasions.

With funding from the Government of Canada

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