Buy alcohol with SingPass from vending machines soon; app users triple in past year

Customers will use the SingPass mobile app to scan a QR code on a vending machine, then verify their identity with the app to purchase the alcoholic beverage. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - It may soon be possible to use SingPass to verify a person's age to buy alcohol from vending machines, even as the Government plans to make the national identification system a common tool to authenticate digital sign-ins.

In the second or third quarter, fintech company Ascan is planning to launch a new feature in vending machines that allows customers to buy alcoholic beverages using SingPass, instead of a physical NRIC at shops, to confirm that they are at least 18 years old - the legal drinking age here.

They will be able to do this by using the SingPass mobile app to scan a QR code on a vending machine, then verifying their identity with the app by keying in their six-digit app passcode, or scanning their fingerprint or face.

Once they agree to let SingPass send their date of birth details and their age has been verified, they can select the alcoholic beverage they want to buy.

The verification step is similar to that for using SingPass to access government e-services, like applying for public housing. But users must first do a one-time set up for the app using their SingPass username and password.

The vending machine example was one of several new ways of using SingPass that the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) showcased on Thursday (March 4) as it launched a new logo for SingPass, the first in the 18 years since the service was introduced in 2003.

The SingPass website and app will be updated with the new logo from Sunday.

GovTech, which developed SingPass, said that at the heart of this rebranding is delivering an "even better SingPass that offers new features and provides convenient access to a larger range of services".

Transactions facilitated by SingPass last year doubled to over 170 million, as more people turned to digital transactions during the pandemic, said GovTech.

The identification system now powers more than 1,400 services offered by about 140 public and 200 private sector organisations.

The number of people using the SingPass app also tripled in the past year to 2.5 million, of which over 90 per cent use the app at least once a month. The SingPass app was one of the most downloaded ones here last year, said GovTech.

The agency added that SingPass has "played an important role in the fight against Covid-19" and has supported pandemic contact tracing efforts with SafeEntry check-ins through the SingPass app.

In the last three years, more than 10 features have been added to SingPass.

These include the launch of the SingPass app in 2018 and upgrading SingPass to the digital equivalent of the NRIC. This means that, in some cases, the SingPass app can replace the physical NRIC to verify a person's identity, or reduce the need to fill in personal details with forms.

The SingPass app stores a user's NRIC barcode and retrieves personal details from government sources such as driver's licence number, marriage certificate number, birth records of children, property ownership data; and Central Provident Fund records.

Many organisations have used this feature to help cut down on paper work for customers. In 2018, DBS Bank launched an online application service using SingPass that allows it to provide new and existing customers instant approval for DBS and POSB credit card applications, as well as enable customers to open a DBS Cashline immediately.

Ray of Hope, a crowdfunding platform for charity, said on Thursday it has used SingPass to help it verify the identities of people who want to start fund-raising campaigns to get financial help on the platform.

Its general manager, Mr Tan En, said that SingPass verification helped the charity to cut 40 to 50 per cent of the paperwork needed after Ray of Hope started doing this at the beginning of February.

He hopes more charities can use SingPass to verify beneficiaries so that those in need do not have to keep producing identity documents to get help.

"We want the beneficiaries to feel that we are connecting with them, instead of being just another set of documents," said Mr Tan.

GovTech noted that using SingPass for customer log-ins "removes the need for organisations to maintain their own authentication platforms".

It added that organisations in the real estate, healthcare, finance, automobile and training sectors have also expressed interest to use SingPass verification to simplify face-to-face registration. This could be done over counters that are unmanned or have support staff.

In December, the agency announced that SingPass can be used for two-factor authentication by scanning a person's face.

Human resource cloud software provider JustLogin is now testing this SingPass Face Verification feature with some companies. Employees can log into an HR portal, such as to apply for leave, by keying in their names and their companies', then scan their face using a computer's camera instead of entering a password.

"This provides a convenient way for users to log in securely without having to remember a password," said JustLogin chief executive Kwa Kim Chiong.

Another new SingPass feature, launched in November, is Sign, which allows users to securely sign legal and business documents virtually, without having to be physically present.

For example, real estate agency ERA Singapore announced in November that it is using this SingPass feature to sign tenancy agreements digitally to help its agents save time.

Other possible uses of Sign include digitally signing bank loan applications.

The signature is encrypted and a person's identity is automatically validated against the Government's database at the point of signing.

GovTech said on Thursday that "digitalising everyday transactions saves time for both residents and businesses as users no longer have to submit hardcopy documents and streamlined processes result in quicker approvals for applications".

Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said at the SingPass rebranding event on Thursday that with all the features built into SingPass, "it is not a stretch to imagine that (SingPass) will eventually evolve into an international digital identity or... passport" that can be used across borders.

Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan speaking at the SingPass rebranding event on March 4, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Work has already started on this.

Singapore is in talks with Australia and Britain on developing such a digital passport, although this is still some years away from being ready, said Mr Kwok Quek Sin, GovTech's senior director for national digital identity.

One technology being considered for the digital passport is blockchain, which involves the use of decentralised digital databases in different places containing information about transactions that is visible to all in the chain.

This technology also powers GovTech's HealthCerts, an open-source framework and set of standards for issuing digital Covid-19 test result certificates that are widely recognised at local and overseas airports.

HealthCerts is the basis for digital pre-departure Covid-19 test results that clinics will have to issue instead of physical certificates from March 10.

To ensure SingPass services are easily accessible, GovTech added that key transaction pages on the SingPass website and app will be available in the four official languages - English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil - by the end of this year.

Mr Kwok said GovTech would continue to roll out new products and features on the SingPass national digital identity platform.

"The new (SingPass) brand offers an exciting glimpse into the possibilities and future of our Smart Nation - one that is enabled by the trusted national digital identity, a platform which we can rely on for all of our transactions," said Mr Kwok.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.