Brussels today launched the European gateway service. The corona tracing apps from Germany, Italy, and Ireland are now working together hand-in-hand. Other countries will soon follow.
This means that European citizens can now warn each other of the threat of infection. Their smartphones will exchange pseudonymized keys for this purpose, which makes it easier to identify and interrupt chains of infection, even across national borders. For Europe, this is an important step in the fight against COVID-19.
For Deutsche Telekom and SAP, it is another example of working together to set a new, pioneering standard. The German Corona-Warn-App developed by the two companies was already ideally suited to Europe-wide use thanks to its decentralized approach.
An EU system does bring a range of challenges:
Security is the top priority in a Europe-wide system for corona-tracing apps. The gateway service helps ensure the security of shared keys and pseudonymizes them. This means that the users’ identities remain hidden. Furthermore, the systems behind the countries’ corona apps – the so-called “back ends” communicate exclusively with the gateway and not with each other. This minimizes the transported data volume and maximizes data protection.
This is much larger for an EU project than for a national one. Here it was necessary to reconcile the various conditions and requirements of the participating member states.
The countries use different IT systems and programming languages. As a universal translator, the gateway service helps ensure that the different systems can communicate with each other.
The gateway is designed for European dimensions and several hundred million users. Its performance must always be ahead of the curve of users, which grows every day.
Countries that connect their back ends to the gateway can flexibly define how information about an infection flows toward and out of the gateway. The gateway offers three options for the interaction between national back ends and corona apps:
- One Europe: All diagnostic keys from all participating countries are distributed via the national and European gateway to all app users from all participating countries.
- Traveler: On the devices of travelers, travelers download the diagnostic keys of all participating countries. On the devices of non-travelers, domestic users download not only the domestic diagnostic keys but also the keys of all people traveling.
- Country of Interest: Diagnostic keys of travelers are shared, in addition to the country of residence, only with selected and relevant countries.
Corona-Warn-App: A Way Out of the Crisis
Clarity about what happens with user data has played a key role in the success of the German Corona-Warn-App. The app was developed in the middle of a lockdown, with nearly all project staff working from home, and was completed under immense time pressure and public scrutiny.
We have never seen a project of this kind before.
It is the result of a joint open-source project between two DAX-30 companies. The effort was worth it — the German Corona-Warn-App has already been downloaded more than 19 million times, a vote of confidence from the public that few were expecting. Now it is time to use the app and share positive test results. Each and every one of us can make an important contribution to overcoming this crisis, together and in good health.
The latest version (1.5) of the Corona-Warn-App supports the European gateway. With its launch, we are taking a step forward in the fight against the pandemic, together with our European neighbors. Pooling the individual efforts of member states creates something bigger and brings us closer together. The Union is demonstrating both solidarity and its ability to act.
From a political point of view, today sends a hopeful message: We are one Europe, and we will protect each other against COVID-19.
Adel Al-Saleh is a member of the Board of Management of Deutsche Telekom AG and CEO of T-Systems.
Juergen Mueller is chief technology officer and a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE.