Singapore plans wearable contact tracing device for all

Singapore plans wearable contact tracing device for all

People cross a street during morning peak hour commute in Singapore on Wednesday. (Photo: Reuters)
People cross a street during morning peak hour commute in Singapore on Wednesday. (Photo: Reuters)

SINGAPORE: Singapore plans to soon launch a wearable device for novel coronavirus contact tracing that, if successful, it will distribute to all of its 5.7 million residents, the government said on Friday.

The city-state has already developed the first-of-its-kind smartphone app to identify and alert people who have interacted with novel coronavirus carriers, but the bluetooth technology has been beset with glitches and the app is not widely used, Reuters reported.

"We are developing and will soon roll out a portable wearable device that will ... not depend on possession of a smartphone," Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told parliament on Friday.

"If this portable device works. We may then distribute it to everyone in Singapore ... This will be more inclusive, and it will ensure that all of us will be protected."

The device being developed can be worn on a lanyard or kept in a handbag and will be battery-operated, Balakrishnan said last month in an interview with Sky News Australia.

Bloomberg reported that Balakrishnan told parliament on Friday the government would not make the app's use mandatory at this stage.  

The app, named TraceTogether, did not work as well on iOS or Apple devices since they suspend Bluetooth activity while the app runs in the background, Balakrishnan said. 

The government had discussed the issue with Apple but had yet to find a satisfactory solution.

“Because TraceTogether does not work equally well across all smartphones, we have decided therefore at this point in time, not to mandate the compulsory use of TraceTogether,” Balakrishnan said.

Since its launch on March 20, 1.5 million of 5.7 million residents have installed the app, he said.

The government is working on an alternate contact tracing method which would involve a portable wearable device that does not require a smartphone, he said.

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