To prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), governments are taking extraordinary steps to protect their citizens. In Israel, the nation’s Ministry of Health is using technology in unprecedented ways to halt the coronavirus’ spread.
The Israeli Ministry of Health developed an innovative new app that uses cellular GPS data to provide alerts on areas with high concentrations of COVID-19 infections. The app is designed to prevent COVID-19 spread by notifying people who were in the vicinity of verified coronavirus carriers.
Given how quickly COVID-19 can spread and the urgency to “flatten the curve,” the Israeli Ministry of Health needed to get this app out into the hands of its citizens urgently. But the app also needed to function properly. Did push notifications go through promptly and to everyone? Does the app work across devices, and in different configurations?
Since March 20, Applause has been doing its part to ensure the app works as intended and is functioning properly. Applause’s community of vetted QA testers have already identified bugs that could prevent Israelis from using the app or trusting its results.
“This is the kind of work we do at Applause on a daily basis,” said Mark Granot, VP and General Manager of Applause’s Israel office. “Our team ensures apps work by testing them in the wild. We’re excited to work with the Ministry of Health on such an important app in this extraordinary time.”
How does the app work?
The app tracks the GPS locations of verified COVID-19 carriers over the 14 days before they were diagnosed — the time frame during which a carrier should self-quarantine. The app cross-checks the carriers’ locations with the app’s users. If a user has been within geographic proximity to a carrier over those 14 days, the app sends a push notification to the user.
The push notification informs the person that they were near someone sick with the coronavirus, and must immediately isolate at home for 14 days to protect relatives and the public. The app also provides a link to the Ministry of Health website, where the person can get more information about next steps.
With widespread testing of COVID-19 still ramping up in Israel, this system helps prevent unknowing carriers from spreading the virus. If people heed the warnings, they can help to “flatten the curve” in Israel and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
“Once we got the call, we put a team together immediately to focus on helping the Ministry of Health with this critical app,” Granot said. “Globally, we are all in this fight against coronavirus together, and that includes the application development community.”
How did Applause help?
Applause joined the project on March 20 and began testing on the same day. Working over the weekend, nearly 70 QA testers contributed to this top-priority project to test versions of the app on dozens of different mobile manufacturers and configurations, including Android and iOS.
The QA testers discovered dozens of bugs, including a significant amount that were determined to be at least very valuable and would significantly impact the user’s experience. For example, the testers discovered that the app crashes when it’s used in dark mode, and certain situations led to the app showing that it detected data even when data and location services were off. Since this second error was directly related to the main functionality of the app, it represented a very critical bug for the Ministry of Health to fix.
In addition, tests were performed to ensure that push notifications were received by the users when they should be.
Applause is continuing to test the app on an ongoing basis. In recent test cycles, Applause is focusing its testing on rare devices — such as small-screen devices — which had been the source of user complaints and were difficult for the Ministry of Health to test on its own.
Working closely with the Ministry of Health, the app developers have already started fixing several of these bugs, which should ensure that Israelis get notifications that could prevent the further spread of COVID-19 and ultimately save lives.
“We are happy to play a role in trying to limit the spread of coronavirus in Israel,” Granot said. “We plan to continue to support the Ministry of Health’s application development team in future releases with reviews of bug fixes and additional new features.
“While Applause is adjusting to new ways of working in this challenging time, we remain open for business. As other government agencies build new applications to combat the coronavirus, we at Applause would be happy to provide free testing services for them as well.”