SwissCovid App

Insight into the pilot phase from the IT Services.

The Swiss Proximity Tracing app has been available for download to all interested users since Thursday, 25 June, 2020.

The SwissCovid App is a proximity tracing app developed jointly by ETH Zurich and the EPFL in Lausanne on behalf of the Swiss government. The Director of IT Services, Rui Brandao, appointed Peter Jäggi, ITS SDL, as contact person at ETH Zurich for the pilot rollout. His personal experience with the app and with the contact persons can be found in this Post.

How the SwissCovid App works. (Illustration: EPFL)
How the SwissCovid App works. (Illustration: EPFL)

Report

At the beginning of May 2020, the EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) asked ETH Zurich if it would like to participate in the pilot phase of the SwissCovid App (which at that time was called the SwissPT App).

ETH agreed to the request and EPFL asked for a central contact person who could represent the interests of ETH Zurich during the pilot project while ensuring progress was made with the outstanding work. After the Corona Task Force of ETH Zurich commissioned ITS to take the lead, Peter Jäggi assumed the role of central contact person at ETH Zurich on 4 May 2020.

During a next step, the Corona Task Force defined the other departments that were to be involved: HR, Corporate Communications (HK), Legal Office (RD), Safety, Security, Health and Environment (SGU) and the Ethics Commission. These departments, in turn, provided their respective contact persons.

Two days later, on 6 May 2020, the first of the daily telephone conferences for the pilot rollout was held. Representatives from the EPFL, the FOITT (Federal Office for Information Technology and Telecommunication) and Ubique (app programmer) were also present. This first telco already highlighted the strong dynamics of this project. Until now, the EPFL and FOITT had assumed that the pilot would be started very quickly, if possible at the beginning of the following week. However, the Parliament meeting, which was being held again for the first time after the corona lockdown in the halls of the BEA (BERNEXPO AG), had decided on the evening before that a statutory basis would first of all be needed for widespread deployment, but, nevertheless, a pilot could be carried out beforehand within the framework of a regulation that was still to be drawn up. This meant the pilot could be started towards the end of the next week at the earliest.

On Wednesday, 13 May 2020, the Federal Council approved the ordinance for the pilot, as expected, which meant nothing stood in the way of a pilot launch on 14 May 2020 on an administrative level.

Complexity & Challenges

Unfortunately, due to technical problems, the start of the pilot was repeatedly delayed. The approaching public holiday (Ascension Day) was also an issue, which meant the pilot did not start until Monday, 25 May 2020.

However, as the app was renamed at short notice, and this was not updated accordingly in all documents, certain download links no longer worked, which also caused some additional stress to those involved on this day.

The next problem then surfaced the following day: As the pilot took place with a so-called test flight for Apple devices, the number of downloads was limited to 10,000. On Tuesday evening the download link was made public via various user forums, and the following night the limit was reached. As a workaround, the app was transferred to the normal Apple store.

By the end of the pilot phase, around 180,000 downloads were made, and 160,000 users were running the app (according to the media conference of 24 June 2020).

Collaboration & Thanks

Many thanks to all those involved from the EPFL and FOITT, and of course to my colleagues at ETH Zurich, who always provided me outstanding support: HK, HR, SGU, ETH Legal Office, Office of Research, Ethics Commission and the staff of IT Services.

Official Start

Since Thursday, 25 June, the SwissCovid app has been available officially. What do users of the pilot version need to consider if they continue to use it?

  • Pilot users: how to continue using the SwissCovid app (ETH News)

More on the Internet

SwissCovid app image/ Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
SwissCovid app image/ Federal Office of Public Health FOPH

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