Bluetooth Enabled Contact Tracing Devices to Help Singapore Reopen Economy

With the escalating cases of COVID-19, scientists are in a race to find solutions and alternatives to make this new normal bearable, helping to regain the economic crisis. Singapore has started to cater Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing devices as part of its measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The so-called “TraceTogether” tokens are considered as an alternative to the government’s contact tracing smartphone app.

The tracing system’s goal is to help people who do not use or prefer not to use smartphones. However, there were concerns about privacy after the announcement of the device was made. The first batch of the devices are being distributed to vulnerable elderly people who have little or no family support or have mobility problems. The tokens have unique QR codes and do not need charging as they have a battery life of up to nine months. The devices work by exchanging Bluetooth signals with other nearby “TraceTogether” tokens or smartphones that are running the “TraceTogether app”.

The individuals using the device, or its app will be notified if they happen to come in contact to a person who have been near someone infected with the coronavirus. If they are then confirmed to have contracted the virus from them then subsequently the data of that individual will be downloaded from their device.

Yet, about the increasing number of concerns about the device, the ministers have dismissed their concerns by saying that they are not designed to tag people’s movements. The Singapore government has said that the data collected by the devices will be encrypted and kept in the token for up to 25 days. Authorities have also said that the data cannot be accessed remotely as the tokens have no internet or cellular capabilities.

Another feature highlighted by the government is that the tokens have no Global Positioning System (GPS) connectivity, so they do not collect location data. Additionally it will not be a problem for those individuals who do not own smart phones in addition to elderly people. Further, The Singaporean government has said that since it launched its “TraceTogether smartphone app” in March is has been downloaded by more than 2.1 million people in the country. Authorities claims that they need to raise participation in the “TraceTogether programme” to considerable amount as Singapore has started to reopen its economy.

Source: GOVTECH

Earlier this month the Singapore government started to ease its “Circuit Breaker lockdown” measures. These measures include non-essential retail stores reopening and eating-in allowed again at food and drinks outlets. The tokens were sourced from a Singapore-based electronics company PCI. It was also made public that at the start of this month, the company had won the SGD6 million (£3.5m; $4.3m) tender to supply the first 300,000 devices, which works out at SGD20 per token.

Moreover, on Sunday, it was revealed by authorities over 213 new infections in Singapore, 11 of which were in the community with the balance in foreign workers’ dormitories were found. That brought the total number of Covid-19 cases to 43,459. Lastly, the use of this tracking system will may prove to be beneficial to individuals who are not tech-savvy, and who do not own smart phones.

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