Minister: S’pore is Working on a Wearable That Can be Left in a Handbag for Contact Tracing

Remember the app, TraceTogether?

If you don’t, it probably means that you’re part of the majority who have not downloaded the app yet. Or perhaps you did, but you did not turn it on for it to work.

Given that the take-up rate was reported to be disappointingly low, experts were suggesting to make it mandatory.

Before you start going on a rant on how important privacy is to you, no they have not made it mandatory for everyone.

Instead, they are searching for alternatives to TraceTogether app.

S’pore is Working on a Wearable That Can be Left in the Handbag for Contract Tracing

Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan revealed that the authorities are currently looking into alternatives to the TraceTogether app.

This is because they have been receiving feedback on issues on battery life.

And battery life is our life.

In an interview with Sky News Australia on 22 May (Friday), Annelise Nielson asked about the number of Singaporeans who downloaded the app, to which Vivian cited a figure of 20% in response.

According to him, the number has gone up a little, with 1.5 million downloads. This is between 20% to 25% of Singapore’s population.

While the number might not be where they hoped it to be, getting the app is still a voluntary exercise, and the government aims to keep it that way.

But note that it’s just the number of downloads: it’s unknown how many people have turned them on.

Feedback on TraceTogether App

Vivian acknowledged that the government had received feedback about how the app consumes battery life through its use of Bluetooth proximity data.

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In case you don’t know how the app works, it exchanges short-distance Bluetooth signals between phones to detect other users of the app who are in close proximity, so it doesn’t use your location data at all.

Hence, to resolve this issue, they have decided to come up with another alternative.

A Wearable Alternative Device

Vivian then elaborated further on the device that they are working on. According to him, the device is a wearable, small device on the end of a lanyard.

It works on its own battery so it’ll not be draining our phone’s battery life. Furthermore, with its size, one can simply carry on with one’s daily activities without any disturbances.

A combination of these devices and the app would better increase the participation rate to aid contact tracing.

Nielson then inquired if more people would be willing to use the lanyard instead of downloading the app, and whether user issues or privacy concerns worried them.

Vivian believes that a combination of user issues primarily, and having a wearable device where people can simply leave it in the handbag, makes it much easier. This will aid the increase of participation rate.

That is, if you only use one handbag lah.

On the other hand, voluntary participation is essential, which meant respecting users’ privacy concerns as well. He understands that human remains at the centre of it all, and it is not just about technology.

To them, maintaining trust and respecting the privacy of users is as important as getting voluntary participation.

It’s unknown when this would be implemented, but once it’s out, it means you’d have to bring one more thing out when you go out for a jog.