DOD To Tap Commercial Sector for Covid Exposure Tracing Tech

The Defense Department is in the market for innovative technologies that can automatically notify U.S. service members if they’ve been exposed to Covid-19.

The Defense Health Agency (DHA) plans to hold an industry pitch day on Nov. 10 for commercial solutions for proximity logging, also known as contact tracing. The DHA plans to issue a commercial solutions opening (CSO), allowing the agency to fast-track funding to adapt commercial technologies for government use.

Currently, defense health officials are performing manual contact tracing in the event that an individual is infected with Covid-19. Manual contact tracing is a time-consuming and often unreliable process that depends on the infected individual’s ability to recall every person they might have come into contact with, and then investigating each potential new case.

Instead, Pentagon officials envision issuing each service member a wearable device that logs its proximity to other devices, according to an attached program description. That way, if one person reports a Covid-19 diagnosis, there is a digital record of every person they’ve been in contact with.

Any device or solution proposed must be unobtrusive, capable of surviving deployment in Pentagon operations worldwide, and able to meet the department’s operational requirements for securing personal health information, according to the document. The solution will also need to be adaptable for applications beyond Covid-19, such as for use in future pandemics or against chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) emergencies.

Technology companies like Apple Inc. and Google Inc. have already launched automated exposure notification systems that rely on smartphones and Bluetooth technology. In September, both companies rolled out easier-to-use versions of their respective systems in an effort to increase user adoption and slow the spread of the virus.

To contact the analyst on this story: Chris Cornillie in Washington at ccornillie@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Snyder at dsnyder@bgov.com; Jill Oleson at joleson@bloombergindustry.com

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