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Google is working on bringing COVID-19 contact tracing to smartwatches

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Wear OS may feel dead in the water and might only be receiving a minimum of feature additions, but it  remains a widely used platform nonetheless. And it looks like the company isn’t completely done with wearables. Following the Bluetooth SIG decision to expand the standard’s specifications to enable contact tracing on Bluetooth Low Energy devices like wearables, Google already appears to be working on adding COVID-19 exposure tracing to its platform.

XDA Developers spotted some strings that point to the added functionality in the latest Play Services beta, v20.50.14. They reveal that you might soon be able to pair your Bluetooth wearable with your phone and use both devices to make the tracing even more accurate. One of the strings reads: “Your phone will use this device to securely collect and share random IDs with other devices that are nearby. You can be notified if you’ve been near someone who reported having COVID-19. The date, duration, and signal strength associated with an exposure will be shared with the app.” This could allow you to leave your phone at home when you have your watch on you without worrying that you’re no longer contributing to the tracing system.

<string name="exposure_notification_pair">Pair</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_pair_fail_dialog">Pair failed! Please try again.</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_pair_new_device">Pair new device</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_paired_devices">Paired devices</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_pairing">Pairing…</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_wearable_available_devices">Available devices</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_wearable_device_list">Get notified on paired devices</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_wearable_device_name">Device name</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_wearable_pair_dialog_message">"Your phone will use this device to securely collect and share random IDs with other devices that are nearby.
You can be notified if you’ve been near someone who reported having COVID-19.
The date, duration, and signal strength associated with an exposure will be shared with the app.
"</string>
<string name="exposure_notification_wearable_pair_dialog_title">Pair %s for COVID-19 Exposure Notification?</string>

XDA Developers suspects that work on this framework is enabled thanks to a draft on the wearable exposure notification service the Bluetooth SIG recently published. It’s likely that Google will still have to wait for the standard to be finalized, but it looks like the company is doing its part to ensure a quick launch.

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