Gordon  Matlala

Gordon Matlala

1616272680

Platform-Agnostic Tracing

One of the three fundamental laws of classical mechanics is Newton’s first law, which says that an object will remain at rest or continue to move at a constant velocity unless acted upon by force.

We live in an imperfect world where nothing ever remains in motion, and nothing ever remains at rest. Nature is full of forces that toss things around, sometimes against our wishes. As engineers, we’ve yet to figure out the magic that makes apps run forever without issues.

Instead, we’ve learned to build apps that are observable, because we know that bad stuff will happen sooner or later. And when it does, we’ve got to know “what” and “why” in order to recover quickly. In a distributed system, shifting through logs can be daunting. Likewise, metrics have limitations. They could show that something is wrong, but good luck finding out “what” and “where.” This is where tracing comes in.

Tracing is a way of stitching requests together as they transit multiple services. It helps you observe distributed systems, to pinpoint the causes of suboptimal performance and failures.

Microservices applications consist of interconnected systems, services or functions, that work together to serve requests. For example, a microservice app may include an order service, cart service, payment service, and catalog service. Each service is isolated and separated by a network boundary, and the services could be hosted on different platforms. The distributed nature of microservices makes it necessary to have a way to track how requests go through your entire ecosystem of services.

A trace consolidates data to locate failures, correlate error reports, identify how an issue in a single service affects other services, and provide insights into the services that affect your application’s overall performance.

The Fabric of Trace

Fundamentally, a trace begins with a single request and represents the request’s entire journey as it transitions through all the services of a distributed system. Each trace is made up of a series of tagged time intervals, or spans.

You can view a span as a fundamental element of a distributed trace, representing a unit of work done by a single service in a distributed system. A span may have a unique ID, timestamp, name, and metadata. Spans may also contain logs — in the form of key-value pairs, which are useful for capturing span-specific informational or debugging output and logging messages.

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Platform-Agnostic Tracing
Carmen  Grimes

Carmen Grimes

1595498460

Contact Tracing App: The Technology, Approach to fight COVID-19/Corona

As COVID-19 staggeringly lands blows to nations across the world, governments are considering ways to see their citizens through this pandemic. At the moment, a WHO situation report clocks the number of confirmed cases above two million along with more than one hundred thousand deaths. With vaccines dubbed as the best possible chance to tackle COVID-19 having no precise time frame of being ready, the talk is quickly shifting away to Contact Tracing Applications.

Contact tracing apps are digital solutions that use mobile technology to power the process of manual contact tracing. The apps follow a user’s movement, either by the use of Bluetooth technology, QR codes, or geo-location data while also tracking and keeping data from other user phones nearby. If one user gets diagnosed, the apps alert other users that they may have been exposed to the virus. As such, Contact Tracing Applications are being welcomed and perceived as an important approach to stem the spread of COVID-19 by providing a more accurate platform with data and information about affected individuals.

How Contact Tracing App Works

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As mentioned above, contact tracing apps leverage mobile technology to trace cases of possible infection more accurately. But how exactly? Once installed and operative, the phone runs the app simultaneously with Bluetooth or location data to transmit signals with unique keys or IDs to phones in the designated range of connection. Similarly, the other phones with the app installed to detect and send back the signals.

For instance, if ‘Individual A’ has the app installed and goes outdoors to run some errands, they will interact with other individuals. In such a case, supposing all the other individuals had functional Contact Tracing Apps, each phone would exchange and store the contact data anonymously. It is important to note that the data collected only covers the app range distance to disregard irrelevant contacts and that their keys repeatedly change as individuals move. In any event that ‘Individual A’ tests positive for COVID-19 through confirmed tests, users who were previously within the proximity of ‘Individual A’ are alerted. Consequently, they are notified to check for symptoms, self-isolate, or get tested. Each time a person tests positive, the app notifies and advises the affected individuals.

In a nutshell, Contact Tracing Apps automate and supplement the traditional concept of tracing contacts to achieve extensive and realistic results in the least time possible.

What are the Benefits of Contact Tracing Apps?

Contract Tracing Apps are assets that offer indispensable solutions to health institutions and the public against COVID-19. There are several reasons why many governments are urging their citizens to use digital contact tracing apps to combat the spread of COVID-19. They include:

  1. The apps are more effective than manual tracing. While not perfect, their predictive algorithms frequently observe individuals detect new cases and analyze the probability one was infected. If one has contact with an asymptomatic individual, they are immediately notified and advised accordingly. Therefore, this saves time, energy, and resources that would have otherwise been overused.
  2. Contact tracing apps facilitate the relaxation of imposed restrictions or lockdowns. With a large number of infected people identified by the apps and put under surveillance, healthy citizens can be allowed to go about their duties. This may be a significant turning point to try and revive economies.
  3. Users’ private data is encrypted and secured. Even if you test positive, other users will only get notifications of possible infections. Your information is protected from both other users and developers of the app.
  4. They will increase the capacity to test and detect COVID-19 cases. With infected users alert, users who come in contact with affected persons come forward to be tested and treated with a higher recovery chance.

Future of Contact Tracing Apps?

Currently, the role of contact tracing apps is limited to accurately identifying infected individuals and their contacts as well as facilitating a quicker response to the Covid-19 threat.

Beyond that, the use of contact tracing apps is projected to take a different turn. One key area bound to change is how people’s privacy is handled. Tech institutions are under growing pressure to devise ways to develop privacy-preserving Contact Tracing Apps.

This will earn the users-trust, which is a pillar for these apps to help contain the disease. Technically, the technology will also have to improve drastically. The apps will have to seamlessly integrate with the user’s phone lifestyle causing minimal or no interference. With most applications having an open-source code, Artificial Intelligence, Beacon Technology, and Big Data solutions will be increasingly harnessed to power and improve them. The apps may also cut across various types of industries apart from health institutions.

How Can It Help to Trace COVID-19 and Reduce the Spread of the Virus?

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Contact Tracing Apps will effectively help stem lowering the cases of COVID-19. By using the apps, officials are able to monitor high-risk individuals easily. Also, should any new case arise, both users and health officials get notified they will swiftly act to trace, test, or isolate infected individuals.

Unlike traditional contact tracing, which may not get all contacts, these apps ensure that once Covid-19 cases are detected, they are all treated early, and those other individuals are not exposed to the infection. They also ward off users from high-risk areas. In the long run, they help break the COVID-19 chain by preventing further spread. Illustratively, an online publication by  CNBC states that more than 500,000 using a Singapore-registered mobile number downloaded the TraceTogether app within the first 24 hours of its launch. Subsequently, together with other government efforts, Singapore has since lowered the infection rate and eased restrictions.

If Contact Tracing Apps are implemented and used alongside other policies, we may as well be a few steps way to curbing this virus.

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