U of M team creates social distancing app

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MEMPHIS, Tenn — We use our smartphones to stay connected and even keep track of our health. Now we can use them to stop the spread of coronavirus.

A research team at the University of Memphis created an app, called mContain to measure social distancing.

“This is not meant to be a burden on anyone. This is meant to kind of flow into your daily life and provide that information,” said Joe Biggers, director of operations.

A team of researchers with the MD2K Center of Excellence at the University of Memphis came up with an app for your smartphone that provides individual and public information to help us all practice social distancing.

“As an individual, this is more like, ‘How am I social distancing myself?’”chief software architect Dr. Tim Hnat said.

“Yes I have to go to the grocery store, yes I have to go to certain places where there are going to be people, but I want to limit how many of those events occur.”

In addition to tracking your distance from other people and sending you reminders about your interactions, the app can also look at what others around you are doing creating maps of hotpots.

“The individual level may be at these times during the day, I don’t want to attend these locations so I can socially distance,” said Shahin Samiei, associate director of research and studies. “Decision makers can use that information and take a look at the map to see if there are areas or hot spots here we might need to focus messaging.”

Of course, the effectiveness of the app depends on the number of people who download it.

The app’s creators say they need at least 1,000 users to create meaningful maps that show crowding — data with your privacy at the forefront.

“So people know what they’re sharing, they are free to not use the application if they don’t want to share that information,” Samiei said.

The app is currently available on the Google Play store. The team is working on an iOS version now. Once maps are available you can also view them online.

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