Iceland Is Doing Its COVID-19 Proximity Tracing The Open Source Way

As governments around the world grapple with the problem of tracing those who have had contact with a person known to have been infected with the COVID-19 virus, attention has turned to the idea of mobile apps that can divulge who a person has been near so that they can be alerted of potential infections. This has a huge potential for abuse by regimes with little care for personal privacy, and has been a significant concern for those working in that field. An interesting compromise has been struck by Iceland, who have produced an app for their populace that stores the information on the device and only uploads it with the user’s consent once they have received a diagnosis. We can all take a look, because to ensure transparency they have released it as open source.

On signing up for the scheme a central server stores the details of each user as well as their phone number. When the epidemiologists have a need to trace a person’s contacts they send a notification, and the person can consent to their upload. This is a fine effort to retain user privacy, with depending on your viewpoint the flaw or the advantage being that the user can not have their data slurped without their knowledge. Iceland is a country with a relatively small population, so we can imagine that with enough consent there could be effective tracing.

We installed the Android version on the Hackaday phone to have a look, but unfortunately it seems to need to be in Iceland to be of use enough to explore. We would be interested to hear from our Icelandic readers, to hear their views. Meanwhile readers can juxtapose the Icelandic app with another proposal for a more anonymised version.

Art Meets Science In The Cold Wastelands Of Iceland

Although Iceland is now a popular destination for the day-tripping selfie-seeking Instagrammer who rents a 4×4, drives it off road onto delicate ecosystems and then videos the ensuing rescue when the cops arrive, there are still some genuine photographers prepared to put a huge amount of time and effort into their art. [Dheera Venkatraman] is one of the latter and produces composite photos using a relatively low resolution thermal camera and DIY pan and tilt rig.

Whilst we don’t have the exact details, we think that, since the Seek Reveal Pro camera used has a resolution of 320 x 240, [Dheera] would have had to take at least 20 photos for each panoramic shot. In post processing, the shots were meticulously recombined into stunning landscape photos which are a real inspiration to anybody interested in photography.

If you do go to Iceland you might find the traditional food a little challenging to those not raised upon it, nor would you go there for a stag night as beer is eyewateringly expensive. But if you enjoy uninhabitable, desolate, dramatic landscapes there is a huge range of possibilities for the photographer from rugged, frozen lava flows to extra terrestrial ‘Martian’ crater-scapes, if you know where to find them.

[Dheera’s] blog contains some more information about his Iceland photography and there’s a Github repsoitory too. And if you cant afford a $699 Seek Reveal Pro, maybe try building one yourself.