Exposure Notificationing

By Andreas Weissenborn, Destiantions International Foundation

Soon the excitement of feeling the buzz of your phone in your pocket or laying on the table, expecting a message from a loved one, a notification of a package delivery, or your favorite artist releasing a new single may be long gone. Replacing it may be a notification the someone you were near recently tested positive for COVID-19. Ever since Apple & Google announced how they could help during the pandemic, we’ve been waiting to see how this might be implemented and its possible effects onto our industry. This week they started releasing what they are calling (and yes, they created a new word again!) ‘exposure notificationing’ will looking like and it is worth considering how it might change our interactions for meeting and events for the near future.

To clarify, what Apple & Google are proposing is not true contact tracing it is just notification of possible contact. That said it’s still some cool tech worth looking at behind the scenes of these companies who are known frenemies.

In its simplest form, what this aims to do is to notify people through the app that their phone was in the vicinity of someone who has tested positive of COVID19 within the last 14 days.

One important distinction is to point out that users cannot self-identify themselves as COVID-19 positive or negative.  In order to prevent false positives being distributed out, only medical personnel can identify your status in the app’s database.

The technology behind it all is a version of Bluetooth called Bluetooth Low Energy, which has a range of <100m or 330 ft, which will be important to remember as we start thinking of what this means for our meetings and event sector.

If you think about a typical conference for our industry, what percentage of attendees do you think you pass within 330 ft during the duration of a conference? 100%, 75%, 35%? Imagine you get home from a conference and your phone dings to notify you of a possible exposure during the conference. Does this make you feel safe and informed and or worried about your privacy and attending conferences in the future?

As we enter the next normal, this will be a reality we will have to confront. To safely gather again in large numbers might mean exposure to those around us who have gone ill. Technology now may grant us early notification of this event so we can address it. Although this might feel like the innocence being shattered, it’s the responsibility of us as a society to use our tools and expertise to help those in our events sector feel safe and secure but also acknowledge the vulnerabilities we all have. Exposure Notificationing is one possible means of achieving this, but a discussion of the privacy lost is worth having as the app is being rolled out.

About Andreas Weissenborn

Introduced to the world of destination organizations by a random internship application to Visit Baltimore (then known as Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association), Andreas Weissenborn began an unexpected career into hospitality that left him with a continued passion towards the tourism industry.

Weissenborn spent just short of 11 years with Visit Baltimore helping with its Research, Technology, and Information Systems across the organization. In 2017, he joined the Association on behalf of a Destinations International Foundation initiative to be a dedicated research source for Destinations International.