COVID-19: Wearable device for contact tracing to be rolled out ‘soon’

06-Jun-2020 Intellasia | Yahoo News Singapore | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The Singapore government is exploring the use of wearable devices for contact tracing and expects to roll it out “soon”.

Speaking in Parliament on Friday (5 June), Dr Vivian Balakrishan, minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative and Minster for Foreign Affairs, said that the government is not making the use of TraceTogether mandatory at this time because it has not reached a “satisfactory solution” on its use with Apple, the maker of the popular iPhones. A total of 1.5 million users have voluntarily downloaded the TraceTogether app on their smartphones.

Sembawang GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Vikram Nair had asked if the downloading and activation of the TraceTogether App should be made mandatory for everyone in Singapore who possesses a mobile phone.

“The app does not appear to work as well on iOS or Apple devices as the iOS operating system suspends Bluetooth scanning when the app is running in the background. We’ve had repeated discussions both at the technical and policy level with Apple, but we have not yet been able to find a satisfactory solution,” Dr Balakrishan said. “Because TraceTogether doesn’t work equally well across all smartphones, we have decided therefore at this time not to mandate the compulsory use of TraceTogether.”

He added that the government is looking at the feasibility of rolling out wearable devices that will achieve the same objective as TraceTogether. If this portable device works, it may then be distributed to everyone in Singapore and Dr Balakrishan said he believes such a measure would be “more inclusive”.

Confidentiality of TraceTogether data

Currently, the government does not “have the breakdown of downloads by gender or age as such data is not currently collected”, Dr Balakrishan said in response to a question by MP Gan Thiam Poh of Ang Mo Kio GRC.

Dr Balakrishan also reiterated in Parliament his written reply, issued on Thursday, to MP Murali Pillai’s (Bukit Batok SMC) question on the steps taken by the government to ensure that personal data of persons collated through apps such as TraceTogether will be protected. “The data is stored only on your own phone in the first instance, and accessed by MOH (Ministry of Health) only if the individual tests positive for COVID-19. This data is only used for contact tracing. There are safeguards, including encryption, in place to protect this from malicious hackers.

“The data that is older than 25 days will be automatically deleted from your phone. If the close contact data is required for contact tracing, only a small group of authorised officers in MOH will have access to it. All the public sector data protection rules will also apply.”

Dr Balakrishan emphasized that quick and accurate contact tracing is necessary. This, he said, is more essential now that Singapore is progressively moving out of the circuit breaker.

“If you think about it, if everyone is at home, the need for contact trading is minimal. Now that we have more people moving about, going to work, there will be more occasions where more people will have more close interactions with each other. Therefore… contact tracing becomes more essential.” million-voluntarily-downloads-of-trace-together-wearable-device-being-explored-051954305.html


Category: Singapore

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