Fraunhofer IIS experts support the fight against the coronavirus disease with technical knowledge

April 01, 2020

Erlangen/Nuremberg: The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS participates in the multinational initiative "Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing" (PEPP-PT) for a cross-border platform and framework on the basis of which privacy-compliant apps can be developed to help contain the COVID19 pandemic. The Fraunhofer IIS expert team for networking coordinates the methods and algorithm development of Bluetooth-supported distance estimation and implements the different methods.


Until an effective treatment against the coronavirus has been found – the only strategy we have is disease containment by contact avoidance. However, after two days, let alone weeks, those who tested positive do not reliably recollect with whom they’ve had random contact for a longer period of time. This is where technology on the cell phone can support and protect the individual and benefit the greater public. The fact that this can only be done anonymously and with the consent of the cell phone owner has been a fundamental prerequisite from the beginning for the planned functional reception.

Distance estimation of moving devices and persons

Together with the Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute HHI and Fraunhofer AISEC, Fraunhofer IIS supports the technological development of PEPP-PT in one of the crucial work packages – distance estimation. The Nuremberg-based IIS scientists contribute their long-standing expertise in distance estimation for moving devices/persons via signal exchange between devices in accordance with the BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) standard.

"It takes profound knowledge and experience to determine the distance as accurately as possible from the signal strength. Influencing factors on the signal strength are the numerous different types of devices varying in transmission power, the adjustment of transmitting and receiving antennas, and the impact of the human body, e. g. during phone calls, tapping the screen or carrying the device in the pocket ", Professor Albert Heuberger outlines the hurdles and challenges that his team has to overcome for an estimate as accurate as possible.

The classification into distances below and above the distance of 1.5 to 2 meters as specified by the Robert Koch Institute in conjunction with the duration indicates which devices the participant potentially came close to. Extensive testing in different environments optimized the estimation parameters in the test scenarios that are available currently.

"The 15-strong team at IIS has been developing, testing and evaluating almost non-stop over the past three weeks as part of an initiative in which 130 scientists from eight nations worked on a COVID19 containment proposal," Heuberger acknowledges the efforts of the Fraunhofer IIS team from Nuremberg.

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