Singapore has begun distributing Bluetooth-enabled contact tracking devices as part of its measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
So-called TraceTogether tokens are an alternative to the smartphone application for tracking government contacts.
They are aimed at people who do not own or prefer not to use a cell phone.
The device announcement was met with concerns in some sectors about privacy.
The first batch of devices is being distributed to vulnerable elderly people who have little or no family support or have mobility problems.
Tokens have unique QR codes and do not need to be loaded, as they have a battery life of up to nine months.
The devices work by exchanging Bluetooth signals with other nearby TraceTogether tokens or smartphones that run the TraceTogether application.
Users will be alerted by a contact tracking officer if they are detected as being close to someone infected with the coronavirus.
If it is confirmed that they have hired Covid-19, the data will be downloaded from the device.
Ministers rejected concerns raised about users’ privacy because they argued that they were not designed to mark people’s movements.
The Singapore government has said that the data collected by the devices will be encrypted and kept in the token for a maximum of 25 days.
The authorities also said that the data cannot be accessed remotely, as the tokens do not have Internet or cellular capability.
Reopening the economy
Another feature highlighted by the government is that the tokens do not have connectivity to the Global Positioning System (GPS), so do not collect location data.
The Singapore government said that since the launch of its TraceTogether smartphone app in March, it has been downloaded by about 2.1 million people.
Officials said they need to significantly increase participation in the TraceTogether program as Singapore has started to reopen its economy.
Earlier this month, the Singapore government began easing its breaker blocking measures, including non-essential reopening and rehabilitation stores allowed again in food and beverage outlets.
The tokens were obtained from a PCI electronics company, based in Singapore.
It was announced earlier this month that the company had won the SGD6 million ($ 4.3 million) tender to supply the first 300,000 devices, which costs SGD20 per token.
On Sunday, authorities registered a total of 213 new infections in Singapore, 11 of which were in the community with the balance in the dorms of foreign workers. This raised the total number of Covid-19 cases to 43,459.