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Contact-tracing applications: a review of technologies
  1. Mohammad Nazayer1,
  2. Samaneh Madanian1,
  3. Farhaan Mirza2
  1. 1Department of Computer Science, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand
  2. 2Department of Information Technology and Software Engineering, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Dr Samaneh Madanian, Department of Computer Science, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland 1142, New Zealand; sam.madanian{at}


Background Using different technologies for healthcare-related purposes has been significantly accelerated since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This outbreak highlighted the need for digital contact-tracing applications to effectively manage the pandemic by identifying positive case close contacts that might be the virus carriers.

Objective The objective of this review is to examine design decisions related to COVID-19 contact-tracing applications and the implications of these decisions. This review can be a useful aid in navigating the existing approaches in COVID-19 digital contact tracing and their different aspects including the potential supported functions, privacy and security.

Method A narrative review was conducted using Google Scholar database from August to October 2020, limited to English language articles and reports published after 2010.

Main outcome Different technologies have been used for digital contact tracing. The choice of these technologies and their software architectures could influence different factors such as data collection accuracy and effectiveness of an application in identifying possible virus spread. Furthermore, different technologies require different levels of user interaction and have different security and privacy concerns which could potentially impact application adoption.

Conclusion Digital contact tracing has been introduced as one of the easy and efficient methods to trace people in close contact with infected COVID-19 cases. This tracing could be an effective strategy to break the chain of infection transmission among people. However, based on the used technology and the software architecture, different contact-tracing applications offer different possible trade-offs that should be taken into account based on government’s objectives on contact tracing.

  • COVID-19
  • public health
  • communicable diseases
  • policy

Data availability statement

All data generated or analysed during this study are included in the article or available through traditional means (PubMed, Google Scholar).

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Data availability statement

All data generated or analysed during this study are included in the article or available through traditional means (PubMed, Google Scholar).

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  • Twitter @SamanehMadanian, @farhaanmirza

  • Contributors MN, SM and FM contributed to the design and implementation of the research. The research analysis and initial first report writing were performed by MN. SM drafted the paper, which was commented upon by all authors prior to submission. FM supervised the project and coordinated responsibility for the research activities. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.