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New Mexico Tech develops contact tracing app

New Mexico Tech has developed its own COVID-19 contact tracing app for students, faculty and staff to leverage around the campus community. The MinerSafe app is intended to help rapidly prevent coronavirus outbreaks should anyone on campus test positive.

Once downloaded and turned on the app traces users while on campus grounds, allowing system managers to immediately determine each individual’s proximity and duration of time near an infected person.

According to an official university release, NM Tech’s MinerSafe app is intended to help identify those who are exposed so they can rapidly get tested and/or isolate themselves. Developers insist the app offers the highest level of data privacy and security available, having been extensively vetted by the university’s Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.

MinerSafe data is heavily protected and frequently purged as part of an ongoing process to ensure the privacy of those in the campus community. NM Tech faculty and students began beta testing the app in February.

“The data from this app will help us determine who can forego quarantine when they’ve been potentially exposed,” says Van Romero, Vice President of Research at NM Tech. “We all want to get back to normal as quickly and safely as possible, and this app gets one step closer.”

NM Tech built its app on top of software previously developed by New Mexico State University. NM Tech redesigned the app at its Institute for Complex Additive Systems Analysis (ICASA) and Cybersecurity Center of Excellence research centers to enhance the privacy and security of the app.

“NMSU really helped us get it off the ground,” says Romero. “In that same spirit, we’re making our app available to other universities so that they can benefit from the effort that we’ve put into it. Beating the COVID pandemic is going to require teamwork, after all.”

NM Tech’s Institute for Complex Additive Analysis worked to ensure user privacy, engineering the app to not just protect all data collected, but also to limit all GPS-based tracking to only campus borders.

An individual’s movements outside of university property is never recorded. The app leverages accurate ‘geo-fencing’ features to determine whether someone is on or off campus.

Use of the MinerSafe app is entirely voluntary, and is available via free download on the Apple App Store with an Android version arriving soon.

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