The COVID-19 exposure notification app from Germany aptly named Corona Warn App has been downloaded over 6 million times since its launch last June 15.
In April, while the European governments search for national champions to help build solutions to the COVID-19 crisis, the German government has commissioned SAP and Deutsche Telekom AG to work together in developing an app to trace coronavirus infections. In only 50 days of the SAP-Deutsche Telekom collaboration with other partners, the Corona Warn App has been officially launched in Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store.
On behalf of the German Federal Government for Germany, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) as the national public health institute published the Corona-Warn-App as a digital complement to distancing, hygiene, and wearing masks. Bringing the European digital technologies at the core of the fight against coronavirus, SAP worked with Deutsche Telekom’s newly created “Digital Solutions” unit of T-Systems in digitalising the process for successfully interrupting the chain of infection in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Largest Open Source Project
Designed to help break infection chains, Corona Warn App records data from a possible infection to warning potential contact persons and from smartphones to laboratories.
Developed in an open source mode, the program code is continuously visible to the public on the development platform GitHub. The code has been viewed by over 109,000 visitors and has reached 250 community and project members. To date, Corona Warn App is the largest open source project ever implemented in Germany on behalf of the German government.
Adel al-Saleh, CEO of T-Systems, shared how the collaboration of SAP and Deutsche Telekom came to fruition despite the COVID-19 climate. He said:
“With the Corona warning app, we are demonstrating how digital solutions ‘Made in Germany’ can be developed in partnership even under challenging conditions — quickly and securely for millions of private users.”
Juergen Mueller, Chief Technology Officer and member of the Executive Board of SAP SE commended the successful development of the German app.
“The project team has worked very closely together to develop an app in record time that will help us break the coronavirus infection chain,” said Mueller.
“The commitment to the open source platform GitHub is outstanding and a clear testimony to a vibrant software engineering culture in Germany. Now it’s important that as many people as possible use the app,” he stressed.
Excellent user experience in terms of operation, data protection, and hotline tech support was the key priority of the project. With this considered, the coronavirus warning app became one of the first European apps based on the current specifications of the Exposure Notification Framework provided by Apple and Google. Consequently, this enables Android smartphone and iPhone users to run the app passively in the background on their device while simultaneously using their favorite apps.
The open source project received support from key public institutions Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) and the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information to address data protection and security concerns. The app does not record any personal information like name, age, address, or location.
During the phase of development, all critical vulnerabilities identified by the BSI were promptly eliminated. BSI commended the app’s high-quality source code.
Keeping Data Secure
When users enable the Corona Warn App, their smartphones exchange encrypted random IDs with other devices using Bluetooth. Data protection is 100%-guaranteed throughout the app’s entire service life and for all functions.
- No registration: No email address and no name need to be submitted.
- No conclusions about identities: When you meet another person using the app, your smartphones only exchange random IDs.
- Decentralised storage: Data is stored only on the smartphone itself and deleted after 14 days.
- No third-party access: Neither the person reporting a proven COVID-19 infection, nor those who have been notified can be traced – not by the Federal Government, the Robert Koch Institute, any other user, nor by Google.
Corona Warn App’s decentralised approach and transparency aim to protect the app’s end-users and to encourage adoption.