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Apple releases Map data showing movement decline after Covid-19

Image credit: Dreamstime

Apple has said it will release data from its Maps app showing the change in volume of people driving, walking or using public transport in order to help health authorities gauge the effectiveness of their lockdown policies.

Apple has set up a new website that reveals the mobility trends for major cities and 63 countries or regions, gleaned from data collected through the company's Maps app.

The firm noted that the data is not associated with a user’s Apple ID and it does not keep a history of where an individual user has been.

The information is generated by counting the number of requests made to Apple Maps for directions. The datasets are then compared with a period in January to reflect any change in volume of people driving, walking or taking public transit around the world.

Data availability in a particular city, country or region is subject to a number of factors, including minimum thresholds for direction requests made per day.

More than 90 per cent of Americans are under stay-at-home orders and various lockdowns are underway in other countries around the globe.

The Apple data shows that in the San Francisco Bay area, requests for driving directions as of April 12 were down 70 per cent compared with January 13, while requests for transit directions also plunged 84 per cent. In New York City, driving direction requests were down 69 per cent and transit requests were down 89 per cent.

Apple’s Maps data is more limited than that which Google made available to public health officials two weeks ago. Google released its data from over 130 countries, comparing trips in recent weeks to recreational venues, train and bus stations, grocery stores and workplaces with a five-week period earlier this year.

For several countries, Google offers county-level data, which is helpful in countries such as the US where lockdown orders are issued by county officials.

The Apple data, by contrast, shows only data for some cities, regions and countries and does not show results for entire US states, including those without lockdown orders such as North and South Dakota.

The German developers of HealthyTogether, an initiative providing digital tools designed to help countries deal with the Covid-19 outbreak, said that Europe should be cautious about relying too heavily on Silicon Valley tech companies.

“We do not think it is the best solution that Google and Apple own the server on which all the contacts plus the medical status of citizens around the world are uploaded,” Julian Teicke, a leader of Healthy Together, told Reuters.

“What we need is an independent party that allows governments some kind of control over what happens with this medical and contact data.”

 

Last week, Apple announced it would team up with Google to work on contact-tracing technology, which could help slow the spread of the virus.

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