Covid-19 contact tracing device will not be an electronic tag, to be rolled out in June

The first batch of wearable devices for Covid-19 contact tracing will be rolled out later this month.
The first batch of wearable devices for Covid-19 contact tracing will be rolled out later this month. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The soon-to-be-issued wearable device for contact tracing will not be an "electronic tag" and will not track people's location, said Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan.

Elaborating on the device, which will be called TraceTogether Token, Dr Balakrishnan said its introduction will come at a time when contact tracing becomes all the more vital in Singapore's efforts to battle Covid-19, as the disease's viral load peaks early in the evolution of the disease. This means it spreads more easily to people at the start of the illness.

Contact tracing is also important in quickly identifying Covid-19 patients and those they had been in close contact with as activities resume post-circuit breaker.

The device will be initially rolled out in the later half of this month and those who do not have mobile phones will be prioritised, said Dr Balakrishnan who was speaking at a multi-ministry task force press conference on Monday (June 8).  

He was addressing privacy concerns which have surfaced since he announced the device in Parliament last Friday.

"It is not an electronic tag... There is no GPS (global positioning system) chip on the device. There isn't even any Internet or mobile telephony connectivity... The device cannot track the location (or) movement of any of us."

The wearable device will be distributed through similar means as how the Government has given out masks and other items.

Dr Balakrishnan earlier said that the Government was working on a wearable device for contact tracing to address the technical difficulties of Singapore's contact tracing app TraceTogether.

TraceTogether identifies people in close contact with a coronavirus patient via wireless Bluetooth technology. The app is useful when those infected cannot recall whom they had been in close proximity with for an extended period.

 
 

The wearable device will work in the same way as TraceTogether, and will be especially useful for people without a smartphone or a new handset that works with TraceTogether. The device may be issued to everyone in Singapore to help curb the spread of Covid-19.