Tips and Tricks

How Your Cellphone Data and GPS Help to Track Coronavirus

The world seems to be at the brink of collapse. It has been brought down to its knees by a viral strain, known as the novel coronavirus or COVID-19, which has claimed countless lives in the past two years, ever since it showed its first signs of existence in Wuhan, China. The thing about coronavirus is that it is a highly contagious disease, affecting the lungs and squeezing the last breath out of its victims. Due to this, COVID-19 has acquired the status of a global pandemic. In the shadow of this pandemic, all governmental, industrial, educational, commercial, healthcare, agricultural, and other sectors of society have come to a stop.

Since it is a contact-based virus, so, everything has transitioned online to encourage as much social distancing as possible. People across America have been confined to their homes – continuing to fulfill their personal or professional responsibilities with the help of internet technology. ISPs have also responded with better-speed network plans and packages, like Cox WiFi plans, to facilitate the stuck-at-home users to the greatest extent. While technology is being used to support the sectors of society and to create a “new normal”, it is also being developed to combat coronavirus transmission. Yes, we are fighting back. The best smartphone software makers like AAPL.O and GOOGL.O are working day in and day out to come up with an ingenious defense. They are planning to use mobile location data and other programs to control the spread of this contagious disease and wipe it out. How? Read on to find out.

Data-Driven Technologies vs. Coronavirus Transmission

We live in an uber-connected world. Everything from social media to instant messaging apps enables human communication in real-time, regardless of space-time restrictions. Researchers, scientists, and developers are thinking of using this very factor to curb the pandemic’s footprint. The following mobile technologies seem to be most promising in this regard:

Cellphone Data

Have you ever wondered how your mobile data works? The moment you subscribe to a mobile carrier, your phone is linked to a nearby cellular tower in the vicinity. This way when you enable data transfer on your device and head online, the tower communicates with your mobile phone and sends data packets its way in the form of electromagnetic waves, and vice versa. When you move from point A to point B, your mobile device pings nearby cellular towers to keep you connected online and your 4G LTE network going. This is how, using the proximity information from the pinged towers, telecommunication operators note your pattern of movement and create a dynamic “location data” for your cellphone. Of course, they do maintain user privacy. It’s a part of the agreement.


GPS stands for ‘Global Positioning System’. It is a satellite-based radio-navigational system, which tells you where you are on the Earth. Almost all the latest smartphones come equipped with a built-in GPS technology, which accurately tracks the location of the device to within 1.5 to 3 meters. Mobile applications such as social media, maps, food delivery, and even video games use this GPS data to give you location-specific service and experience. For instance, when you call an Uber to your workplace, the app reads your exact location to send you a nearby ride that’s available. Similarly, if you get lost somewhere, you can enable the GPS function in your phone to find your way back home or locate the Wi-Fi hotspots in the area and get online, etc.

Now that you know what constitutes “location data”, you can understand how these data-driven technologies can be used to combat coronavirus transmission from one person to another.

Potential Uses

Mobile location data is also referred to as geolocation. Emergency response services like E911 already utilize this data to aid people in times of crisis. Let’s see how it can help track and hopefully stop COVID-19’s spread:

Contact Tracing

Contact tracing is a method to identify and notify people who have come into contact with an infected individual. The terms for this contact have already been defined by CDC. If you stand less-than-6 feet close to someone who has coronavirus for a duration of ten minutes, your chances of contracting the disease almost double instantly. In case you do contract the virus, you can use your mobile location data to alert the first responders about your exact whereabouts, so people who have frequented those areas can be notified of potential transmission through push notifications and can seek testing immediately. Authorities can also piece together the mobile location data of the entire populace to map the hotspots where people have tested positive the most and to quarantine them effectively.

Order Reporting

Mobile location data can also be used to see if people are really following the governmental restrictions on free movement, business closures, lockdowns, and other social distancing guidelines. Compliance monitoring is important to minimize the threat of breakouts. Apps can be created around this concept to urge responsible citizens to keep an eye on their streets and report any individual or organization that is not following the rules. We can only beat coronavirus and save lives if we have the will to do so.

Wrapping Up

Now that the world has fallen prey to the deadly virus, technology comes to the rescue with its geolocation mobile features that cannot only help governments to track coronavirus but also control its proliferation.

the authorABHIYAN
Abhiyan Chhetri is a cybersecurity journalist with a passion for covering latest happenings in cyber security and tech world. In addition to being the founder of this website, Abhiyan is also into gaming, reading and investigative journalism.

Leave a Reply