A drive-thru COVID-19 testing facility is set up in Camden, N.J., March 31, 2020. (AP/Matt Rourke)

Named COVUNITY, the platform is drawing interest worldwide and has received an investment from the New Jersey-based IDT telecommunications company.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

A group of Israelis has joined together to create an app that can connect millions of people across the world and stem the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), with a focus on the US, which is readily becoming the epicenter of the global outbreak.

The app will provide authorities and citizens with data to monitor the spread of the pandemic and will enable to user to know at any given time whether they were exposed to a person carrying the virus, and will predict outbreaks at an early stage using advanced medical information analysis tools.

Named COVUNITY, the platform, which was launched last week, is already drawing the interest of authorities around the world and has received an investment from the New Jersey-based IDT telecommunications company.

The group of five friends, including a medical student and two recently discharged IDF cybersecurity experts, decided to join in this effort after some were put on unpaid leave and with an understanding that they did not want to stay idle during the lockdown in Israel.

One of the developers, Gilad Ganz, told TPS in a conversation that they were prompted to create the app by the “extreme global crisis that has affected billions of people around the world, and as the Start-Up Nation, we knew that sitting at home was not what we should be doing at this time, but rather we should be doing the best we can to help by contributing our technological know-how and abilities to launch this application.”

A pilot of the platform will begin in Corona-battered New Jersey this week and is expected to come into use in many countries in the coming weeks.

New Jersey registered on Tuesday 18,696 confirmed cases of COVID-19, an increase of 5,310 cases in 24 hours, placing it second in the list of states with the highest number of Coronavirus cases in the US.

An additional 106 deaths were also reported across New Jersey on Tuesday, raising the state total from 161 to 267.

The app is essentially a combination of two already existing Israeli platforms, the Ministry of Health’s HaMagen application and the Weizmann Institute of Science’s method of tracking the spread of Coronavirus.

The “HaMagen” (The Shield) app tracks users’ locations to establish whether an individual has encountered someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The app utilizes information on users’ movement of the past 14 days, the incubation period for Coronavirus, while the Ministry of Health feeds epidemiological findings and data of confirmed patients into the system.

Respecting Privacy

The Weizmann Institute of Science is using a Big Data-based system to predict where major Coronavirus outbreaks are likely to occur based on the information fed daily by the population to the system.

The platform has put an emphasis on reducing the compromising of a user’s privacy to a minimum and enables him or her to choose the level of monitoring.

Gantz noted that the app will enable the authorities to focus their efforts in a better way, thus clearing funding and manpower for other needed endeavors during these challenging times.

He emphasized that the program was created “to generate social solidarity around the Coronavirus issue.”

The app will enable safer streets “for all us, a reality that will require social solidarity, and we are harnessing the existing technologies to make a better world for everyone, and this is how we will beat Coronavirus.”