Vulnerable seniors get first batch of TraceTogether tokens

The TraceTogether token that will be distributed to vulnerable seniors from June 28 to June 30. PHOTO: SMART NATION AND DIGITAL GOVERNMENT GROUP
The TraceTogether tokens will be distributed to the most vulnerable seniors from June 28, 2020. PHOTO: GOVTECH

Vulnerable seniors - such as those living on their own, have poor family support or are physically frail and do not own or use digital devices - began receiving TraceTogether tokens from yesterday.

Volunteers and staff with the Silver Generation Office (SGO) will be distributing the devices until tomorrow via house visits, and will also show the seniors how to take care of the devices.

The Bluetooth-enabled dongles are an alternative to the TraceTogether smartphone app, and the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) said in a statement yesterday that vulnerable seniors had been given priority in the three-day distribution exercise.

The SGO had identified the recipients of this exercise, who include the elderly who are physically frail.

"TraceTogether tokens will extend the protection provided by digital contact tracing tools to as many people in Singapore as possible, including those who may not own or prefer not to use a mobile phone," said SNDGG.

The tokens are for the use of the recipient only, and each comes with a unique QR code.

Similar to the TraceTogether phone app, the tokens work by exchanging Bluetooth signals with other nearby tokens or phones running the TraceTogether app.

When a TraceTogether user is confirmed to have the virus, contact tracers from the Ministry of Health will contact the user to facilitate the download of data from the device.

Contact tracers then use this data to determine and contact the patient's close contacts.

"This will enable appropriate precautions to be taken to keep the user and their loved ones safe," said SNDGG.

The token captures only proximity data based on Bluetooth signals, and holds data in an encrypted format for no more than 25 days.

The encrypted data cannot be remotely extracted as the device does not have any Internet connectivity.

The tokens also cannot capture geolocation data, as it has no GPS.

The portable devices have a battery life of about six to nine months, and does not need to be charged.

In its statement, SNDGG said that more people need to come on board the TraceTogether programme so that it can be used effectively and improve the time efficiency and accuracy of contact tracing.

To date, only about 2.1 million people have downloaded the app, but this is not enough, said SNDGG.

It declined to reveal how many tokens will be distributed in this exercise.

"It is only with sufficient usage and the relevant data that these digital tools can work effectively," said SNDGG, adding that effective contact tracing is critical as Singapore gradually resumes its business and social activities.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2020, with the headline Vulnerable seniors get first batch of TraceTogether tokens. Subscribe