The idea of using connected accessories, such as watches or bracelets, to deploy the TousAntiCovid application is gaining ground. According to Withings, the public authorities did not wish to follow up.
The idea of equipping the French population with bracelets or watches capable of accommodating the TousAntiCovid application has, it seems, lived. Responding to questions from L’Obs on March 4, Antoine Robillard, vice-president of Withings, revealed that the public authorities have not followed up on the work of the specialist in connected objects, even though a technical solution has been found.
The person concerned did not dwell on this project which ended its race in a dead end. ” We did the research requested by the public authorities “, Reminds Antoine Robillard. A ” functional proposal ”Could even be developed to embed the contact tracing tool in a connected watch. Except that at the political level, the authorities ultimately did not follow.
The solution imagined by Withings ” did not give rise to a public order to equip citizens without a smartphone », He confides.
Fill in the holes of the contact tracing racket
On paper, the accessory should be aimed at certain audiences, such as children and seniors, to fill the holes in the contact tracing racket via TousAntiCovid. Indeed, smartphones equip “only” three quarters of the population which leaves a large proportion of the public outside the radar of the application – even if, in fact, the tracing of contacts does not rely only on this. software.
Last summer, however, the government seemed very keen on a technical solution capable of addressing people without a smartphone, so that a high-tech bracelet or watch, or even a badge, could still communicate with a smartphone that installed TousAntiCovid. A conference attended by Cédric O, Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, lingered there at the end of June.
At the time, it was indicated that a working prototype of the information transmission protocol was to be presented a month later. Cédric O had also indicated, during a hearing before parliamentarians, some time earlier, that Withings had managed to make TousAntiCovid (which was then still called StopCovid) work on a connected watch.
Cédric O added at the time that it was planned to move to an industrial stage of the project led by Withings, still during the summer of 2020, around July or August. Contacted on this subject to obtain some clarification on the prototype, the reasons for the impasse and possible consequences, the specialist in connected objects has not yet responded to our questions.
Withings has been part of the TousAntiCovid project since its inception, precisely to provide its expertise on connected accessories, alongside other organizations which each bring a specialty (cybersecurity, interoperability, infrastructure, health model, etc.). In the case of Withings, it was a question of producing products costing a few tens of euros to manufacture.
« Such a watch would be worth between 40 and 50 euros, to see what can be supported by the state », estimated moreover the Secretary of State at the end of May, during an exchange with the deputies. A price low enough, to be able to sell the product to audiences with lower incomes, in rural areas or in working-class neighborhoods, or to make it more bearable for public finances, if they take charge of it.
If on paper these connected accessories had not been excessively expensive to produce and buy, compared to the expenditure required to distribute smartphones to the quarter of the population who do not have them, its success was not at all guaranteed. . We had seen it with the first version of the StopCovid application, which failed to break through. TousAntiCovid did better, however.
Indeed, the use of TousAntiCovid is optional. These connected accessories would not have been either, if they had seen the light of day. By making them compulsory, the effectiveness of contact tracing would have been much better, but this would have caused serious problems in terms of individual freedoms – substantial changes in the law would have been required, moreover.
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