Apple Inc on Tuesday said it would release data that could help inform public health authorities on whether people are driving less during lockdown orders to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. The move is essentially similar to what Google implemented some days ago across the world, by collating civilian location data based off its Google Maps service. However, the latter proved to be useful in nations like India, which in Apple's case will be hardly applicable since Apple Maps still isn't particularly great to use in countries like India.
The data is gathered by counting the number routing requests from Apple Maps, which is installed on all iPhones, and comparing it to past usage to detect changes in the volume of people driving, walking or taking public transit around the world, Apple said. The information is being updated daily and compared to a date in mid-January, before most U.S. lockdown measures were in place, Apple said.
More than 90% of Americans are under stay-at-home orders and various lockdowns are underway in countries around the globe. The data would be aggregated so that the requests from individual users would not be shown, and it does not track individual users or their locations, the company said. The information, available on a public website here will show changes for major cities and 63 countries or regions, Apple said.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, requests for driving directions as of April 12 were down 70% versus Jan. 13, and requests for transit directions plunged 84%, the data showed. In New York City, driving direction requests were down 69% and transit requests were down 89%. Apple does not provide the absolute number of requests or a specific number of people moving, instead expressing the data as a percentage of requests compared its mid-January baseline.
(With inputs from Reuters)