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COVID-19 and Your Smartphone: BLE-Based Smart Contact Tracing

journal contribution
posted on 2023-10-26, 09:41 authored by Pai Chet NgPai Chet Ng, Petros Spachos, Konstantinos N. Plataniotis

While contact tracing is of paramount importance in preventing the spreading of infectious diseases, manual contact tracing is inefficient and time consuming as those in close contact with infected individuals are informed hours, if not days, later. This article proposes a smart contact tracing (SCT) system utilizing the smartphone’s Bluetooth low energy signals and machine learning classifiers to automatically detect those possible contacts to infectious individuals. SCT’s contribution is two-fold: a) classification of the user’s contact as high/low-risk using precise proximity sensing, and b) user anonymity using a privacy-preserving communication protocol. To protect the user’s privacy, both broadcasted and observed signatures are stored in the user’s smartphone locally and only disseminate the stored signatures through a secure database when a user is confirmed by public health authorities to be infected. Using received signal strength each smartphone estimates its distance from other user’s phones and issues real-time alerts when social distancing rules are violated. Extensive experimentation utilizing real-life smartphone positions and a comparative evaluation of five machine learning classifiers indicate that a decision tree classifier outperforms other state-of-the-art classification methods with an accuracy of about 90% when two users carry their smartphone in a similar manner. Finally, to facilitate research in this area while contributing to the timely development, the dataset of six experiments with about 123 000 data points is made publicly available.


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IEEE Systems Journal

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