The Royal Air Force is at the forefront of testing an NHS smartphone app that could help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Personnel at RAF Leeming, North Yorkshire, are trialling the software, led by the station’s innovative digital unit, RAF eXperimental (RAFX), who have been working closely with NHSX and partners.
The app uses Bluetooth software to determine a user’s proximity to other devices. If a person shows symptoms or tests positive for the virus, they can choose to share this information with the NHS via the app. An alert will then be sent to other devices they have been near, whose users can then be tested or self-isolate. More than 300 personnel and their families at RAF Leeming carry the app on their phones as ‘beta testers’.
The NHS chose RAF Leeming to host the trial because RAFX has a record of testing apps and is at the forefront of driving new processes across the force.
RAFX set up a scenario which simulated people’s experience of shopping. To adhere to social-distancing rules, phones were placed on tables to simulate people clustering in a shopping area. Others walked past as if looking in shop windows. In doing so the Bluetooth software registers one phone’s proximity to another.
Group Captain Blythe Crawford, RAF Leeming station commander, said:
“The Royal Air Force is doing everything it can to support the NHS and with the help of RAFX and the personnel at RAF Leeming we have provided the perfect testing ground for projects such as this.
“All of our participants were volunteers and spanned the Service, Reservist, Civil Service, Contractor and Dependent communities here on station, and we are delighted that the results have helped the NHS in their drive to develop an application to assist in tracking any spread of the virus.”
Group Captain Blythe Crawford
RAF Leeming SC
Mother-of-two Mrs Trudie Chesworth, whose husband works on the station, said: “It was great that the whole station, including dependents such as myself, were able to do something in support of the NHS and the national effort.”