A New App for Personal Tracking of Social Distancing in the Greater Memphis Area
mContain: Get the app using this direct link on your Android device (iOS version coming soon)
Researchers at the MD2K Center of Excellence, headquartered at the University of Memphis, announce the launch of a free mobile app called mContain to help track social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak with a goal to reduce community transmission.
mContain uses location and Bluetooth technologies in smartphones to detect proximity encounters (within 6 feet for several minutes) with other app users. Similar to a step count, the app counts and displays the number of daily proximity encounters with other app users. To reduce the chances of entering crowded places, the app displays the level of crowding at busy places on a map. If a user and their COVID-19 test provider both agree to share the results of their test, the app can notify other users about possible exposures to COVID-19.
“mContain adopts an anonymous unicast approach to preserve the privacy of all app users, while still providing personal alerts,” said MD2K’s director Dr. Santosh Kumar. After installing the app, no action is needed from users. The app does not collect or keep any identifying information of app users, such as their names, phone numbers, logins, or emails.
“The app minimizes battery consumption by using Bluetooth and location data sporadically,” said MD2K’s Chief Software Architect Dr. Timothy Hnat, who leads the software development for mContain.
The mContain app builds upon MD2K’s successful open-source software platforms used widely in scientific studies. Computer algorithms developed by researchers at the MD2K Center detect encounters and generate anonymous alerts.
To increase awareness of social distancing in the community, the mContain public website displays the level of social crowding at busy places.
The free mContain app is currently available at the mContain website and via the Google Play Store for Android devices, with iOS and Apple App Store access to come shortly.
About MD2K: The Center of Excellence for Mobile Sensor Data-to-Knowledge (MD2K), headquartered at University of Memphis, is a consortium of 13 universities established in 2014 by a grant from National Institutes of Health (NIH) under its Big-Data-To-Knowledge (BD2K) initiative. It is developing the next-generation of mobile technologies to improve health and wellness.