Tracking dongle, facial recognition tested for major events in Singapore

The dongle's job is to flag unauthorised interactions between participants from different zones. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Guests printing their name tags using self-service kiosks with facial recognition. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - A Bluetooth tracking dongle and facial recognition tools are some of the new technologies being piloted to prepare Singapore for major events like World Economic Forum in August.

The tools were deployed at the geospatial Geo Connect Asia 2021 (GCA) conference on Wednesday (March 24), the first large-scale hybrid event of the year with close to 1,000 attendees expected on site.

The dongle's job is to flag unauthorised interactions between participants from different zones while the facial recognition system registers attendees without requiring face-to-face interactions.

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan said pilot events like GCA 2021 are "building blocks" which will give confidence to the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (Mice) industry and help the tourism sector recover.

"I think GCA 2021 gives us a good understanding and a test of what kind of technology is available," Mr Tan added.

The two-day event at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre is the second pilot trade show to be held under the newly-developed hybrid event prototype, which was designed to ensure safe business events.

The first event held under the prototype was TravelRevive held last November.

Event organisers must abide by certain rules under the prototype, such as not allowing people from different zones, containing 50 people each, to mingle.

Each participant carries one of the dongles, which were developed by technology companies Viatick and Trakomatic.

Data collected by the dongles is then uploaded to a database via Bluetooth receivers placed around the GCA event space.

Backend staff are able to access the database to see how long these interactions lasted.

If there are breaches in safe-distancing rules and other safety measures, they can send reminders and alerts through a mobile app called SafeEvent that event participants are encouraged to download.

A similar technology was tested at TravelRevive, but instead of a dongle, participants had to use a mobile app and keep their Bluetooth on.

Safe distancing measures at the Geo Connect Asia 2021. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Viatick accounts and engagement head Louis Lee said the dongle would help to automate the data collection process and could also complement contact tracing efforts by government agencies.

Mr Lee noted: "The data collection process, such as how and where the attendees move, for example, can be very tedious and the dongle helps to automate that. The data can also be analysed on how the layout of the facility can be improved in the event of multiple close contact incidents."

Using facial recognition to help participants register also reduces the amount of physical contact between event staff and attendees and minimise touchpoints at registration kiosks, said Mr Lee.

Participants simply upload their picture onto a portal and the registration kiosk will be able to identify the person even if they have a mask on.

A room with "pods" at the Geo Connect Asia 2021, at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, on March 24, 2021. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Other new safe management measures being trialled at GCA 2021 include the use of geo-suites, which are ballrooms converted to "exhibition booths" as opposed to a typical tradefloor.

Ms Jinal Foflia, a lead programmer at Grab, said she found the dongle convenient to use when she attended the event on Wednesday.

"I don't have to turn on my Bluetooth all the time and I don't need to fiddle with anything," she noted. "We all have to wear lanyards, so with the dongle attached to the lanyard I hardly notice that it's there."

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