Wireless contact tracing could be extended to wearable devices such as smartwatches and fitness bands under an effort from the consortium that operates Bluetooth technology.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group, the body that oversees development of the technology and which has more than 36,000 members, expects a blueprint for the technology to be available within months.
It means that primary school pupils and elderly people who do not own smartphones may be able to take part in contact tracing to fight the spread of coronavirus.
Google and Apple have already teamed up with the NHS and other governments around the world to create an Exposure Notification System (ENS) that can track outbreaks through people’s phones. The NHS app began trials last week after abandoning a bespoke version in June following concerns about privacy.
However, health experts have warned that smartphones on their own are not a practical approach to cover the entire population as many groups, particularly those who might be most vulnerable like the elderly in care homes, may not use smartphones.
This presents a “challenge” for the current system, said Elisa Resconi, a physics professor at the Technical University of Munich who is researching non-pharmaceutical interventions against Covid-19.