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COVID Alert NJ: Technical Specifications and User Experience

Last Updated: 04/07/2021

I'm receiving a 1002 or 1005 error during onboarding, what do I do about this?

If you were connected to Wi-Fi during the onboarding screens, please disable Wi-Fi, and then proceed through onboarding. If turning Wi-Fi back on results in a connection error, please know that the exposure notification feature is still working. Exposure notifications work through the phone's operating system and Bluetooth and doesn't require Wi-Fi once it is enabled. The connectivity issue only affects statistics in the updates section of the app.

Do I have to leave COVID Alert NJ open at all times for the app to work?

No. COVID Alert NJ runs in the background of a phone and does not need to be open or running to work. You only need to make sure the app is installed, exposure notifications have been enabled, and Bluetooth is turned on for the exposure notification system to work.

Do I need to keep Bluetooth turned on at all times for COVID Alert NJ to work?

Yes. The exposure notification system is based on Bluetooth Low Energy, so Bluetooth must always be active for the system to detect your contact with other users.

Do I need to be connected to WIFI or a cellular data connection for COVID Alert NJ to work?

Key exchange requires a Bluetooth connection; however, it does not require WIFI or a cellular data connection. WIFI or data is required at some point in order to receive an exposure alert.

Will COVID Alert NJ use a lot of data?

No. Every day, the app only downloads a few anonymous random codes in order to detect possible exposure to a positive COVID-19 case. Users should expect this process to consume a few megabytes of your data each day.

Will COVID Alert NJ impact my phone battery?

COVID Alert NJ's Exposure Notification framework utilizes Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology, which is designed to have minimal impact on mobile battery life. Some battery use is required to support this app, but you should not see a significant impact to your battery consumption after installing the app. Battery impact may vary across different models and operating systems of mobile devices. Users with older devices may experience more noticeable battery impact given shorter battery lives. To check battery usage on most iOS operating models, visit Settings > Battery. To check battery usage on most Android operating models, visit Settings > Battery > Battery usage > Show full device usage.

I turn my phone off periodically, usually a few hours per day to charge and/or reboot it. Does that affect the app?

Yes, this does affect the app, but only slightly. Turning your phone off may prevent the receipt of random codes, which allow for the exposure notifications to work effectively. However, these random codes will be automatically downloaded as soon as your device is turned back on. To ensure optimal functionality, ensure that your phone is turned on anytime you are moving from one location to another or interacting with others.

Do users have to be intentional about putting their phones near each other, or does the Bluetooth proximity detection happen automatically?

The Bluetooth connection will happen automatically.

Will COVID Alert NJ work on iPads or a smartwatch?

No, it is designed to work only on smartphones.

Does COVID Alert NJ work on older phones?

iPhone users can use COVID Alert NJ if their iPhone has iOS version 13.5 or above. The following iPhones support iOS 13.5: 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, Xr, Xs, Xs Max, X, SE (2nd generation), 8, 8 Plus, 7, 7 Plus, 6s, 6s Plus, SE (1st generation).

Android users can use COVID Alert NJ if their Android smartphone supports Bluetooth Low Energy and Android Version 6 (API 23) or above.

Note that you will not be able to install and use COVID Alert NJ if your phone does not meet these requirements.

On an Android device, I get an "Internal error" when attempting to enable Exposure Notifications. How can I fix this?

This error code has been observed on some Android devices where Google Play services have not been updated. To resolve this, follow these steps:

  1. On your Android phone or tablet, open the Settings app
  2. Tap "Apps" or "Apps & notifications" then "See all apps"
  3. Scroll down and tap "Google Play services"
  4. Scroll down and tap "App Details" or "App details in store"
  5. Tap "Update" or "Install"

Is COVID Alert NJ different than exposure notification apps launched by Google and Apple?

Yes. COVID Alert NJ is the official exposure notification app of the State of New Jersey. It integrates Apple and Google's exposure notification technology in order to alert users if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. In addition, COVID Alert NJ includes features that allow users to log their symptoms daily and stay up-to-date on the fight against COVID-19 in New Jersey.

Will you publish the source code for COVID Alert NJ?

The NJ Department of Health and the app developer, NearForm, takes your privacy and confidentiality very seriously. The source code for this app is available on GitHub.

What's the difference between the COVID Alert NJ app and the Exposure Notification (EN) service setting on my iPhone?

They are both part of COVID Alert NJ exposure notifications.

The COVID Alert NJ app can be downloaded and installed on your compatible phone. The app icon will appear on your screen like any other app, and offers many features beyond just exposure notifications.

The Exposure Notification service is a setting that Apple built into operating systems for compatible iPhones, so users nationwide can enable it once their state has opted in. There is nothing to download or install, and users can choose to enable the setting, choose the region they live in, and COVID Alert NJ automatically begins working in the background.

The app and the Exposure Notification service work the same way. They both use Bluetooth Low Energy and random codes to notify you if you may have been exposed to someone who later tests positive for COVID-19, and they both allow you to voluntarily submit a positive test result to inform others you may been close to.

Your privacy is always protected, whether you're using the app or the setting on your phone. COVID Alert NJ NEVER collects any personally identifying information, never knows your location, and never shares it with the State of New Jersey, public health authorities, Apple, or Google.

What should I expect when I download the app or enable the Exposure Notification setting?

When you download the app or enable the EN services setting, and allow notifications, the COVID Alert NJ system will start working right away silently in the background. COVID Alert NJ will generate a privacy-protecting "random code" for your phone. To ensure these "codes" can't be used to identify you or your location, they change every 10-20 minutes.

Your phone and the phones around you work anonymously in the background, using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to exchange these privacy-protected codes. This is a passive process that begins once you opt-in. It functions without the app open, and won't drain your battery.

Every day, your phone downloads a list of all the codes associated with positive COVID-19 cases and checks them against the list of codes it came across in the last 14 days. If there is a match, COVID Alert NJ determines which phones were close enough for long enough, then sends an exposure notification to those phones.