Singapore distributes Covid contact-tracing tokens

by BBC

The TraceTogether tokens are an alternative to the government's contact tracing smartphone app.Image copyright
Silver Generation Office (SGO)

The Singapore government has started distributing Bluetooth contact-tracing tokens to its five million residents.

The tokens, which can be worn on a lanyard or carried, are a hardware version of its existing contact-tracing app which was rolled out in March.

Like the app, they use Bluetooth to look for other users’ devices and then log any contact with those devices.

They could be popular with people who do not have access to the app or a smart phone.

The Ministry of Health says they will make tackling the spread of Covid-19 easier and help to further reopen the economy.

It said the tokens will help to restart “larger scale” business events, such as conferences, and allow for better tracing in higher risk settings, such as busy hotels, cinemas and gyms.

The initial rollout is happening in areas with a greater concentration of elderly people, who are both at a greater health risk from Covid-19 and less likely to own a smart phone.

But the token will be available to all citizens, including foreign residents.

Singapore residents currently check-in to shops and office buildings using a separate SafeEntry system, that makes use of QR codes to log users’ presence.

For some higher-risk activities, SafeEntry will now also require the app or token to check in.

Better for privacy?

A consultant tapped by the government’s technology agency to provide feedback on the token said it’s a better option for anyone concerned about privacy.

“I would prefer to use the token over the app,” said Bunnie Huang, who lined up for a token on the first day it was available.

Like app, information is stored on the token, purged regularly and is only uploaded – or in the case of the token physically handed over – to the Ministry of Health if the user tests positive.

The tokens can be carried on a lanyard or in a bag, and don’t require a smart phone to run.

The advantage to a hardware-only vers

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