Perse Community Lecture – ‘The Tale of the NHS Covid-19 App’
29 Mar 2021
We were fortunate to welcome Wolfgang Emmerich, Professor of Distributed Computing at University College London and CEO of Zühlke UK, for the latest Perse Community Lecture, in partnership with The Cambridge Building Society.
Prof Emmerich gave a fascinating overview of how smartphones and apps have begun to cross over into being suitable for medical clinical purposes, while offering cost-effective solutions for both the monitoring and intervention of certain conditions.
He provided a helpful understanding into the varying approaches, from online consultation, to app-based monitoring and the use of wireless intervention to communicate with implanted devices.
The main focus of the lecture was on Zühlke’s development, launch and impact of the Covid-19 app. Insights were given into how ‘privacy-by-design’ had been at the heart of development and the regulatory measures that are in place with both medical and security agencies for what is categorised as a Class-1 Medical device.
The speed of need for this app posed its own challenges and we heard Prof Emmerich’s observations on how this affected the inclusion of features and the need to adapt quickly upon changes in government policy, such as regional tier levels.
As well as explaining the technical aspects of how the app uses Bluetooth technology and assesses and communicates potential Covid contact, Prof Emmerich provided engaging analysis of the impact the app has had. He outlined how it saw 20 million downloads in an incredibly short space of time, how contact tracing varies between app notification and manual tracing and even some data indicating that infection rates remain lower in areas where there is a high level of uptake in use of the app.
It was concluded that as lockdowns ease and we gain greater freedom of movement again, it is very likely digital contact tracing will be a key element of how we engage with this pandemic.
Almost 100 guests joined in the event, which was free of charge, but with voluntary donations welcomed in support of NHS Charities Together.
If you were unable to attend and would like to watch a recording of Prof Emmerich’s lecture, please click here.