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Singapore plans wearable virus-tracing device for all

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Singapore plans wearable virus-tracing device for all

By John Geddie and Aradhana Aravindan

 

2020-06-05T075230Z_1_LYNXMPEG540JU_RTROPTP_4_HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-SINGAPORE.JPG

People cross a street during morning peak hour commute amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Edgar Su

 

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore plans to give a wearable device that will identify people who had interacted with carriers of coronavirus to each of its 5.7 million residents, in what could become one of the most comprehensive contact-tracing efforts globally.

 

Testing of the small devices, which can be worn on the end of a lanyard or carried in a handbag, follows limited take-up of an earlier smartphone-based system and has further fuelled privacy concerns about contact tracing technology.

 

The tiny city-state, with one of the highest COVID-19 caseloads in Asia, is one of many countries trying to use technology to allow them to safely reopen their economies.

 

Singapore will soon roll out the device, which does not depend on a smartphone, and "may then distribute it to everyone in Singapore," Vivian Balakrishnan, the minister in charge of the city-state's smart nation initiative, said on Friday.

 

The government did not specify whether carrying the device would be mandatory.

 

The government's earlier TraceTogether app encountered problems, especially on Apple <AAPL.O> devices where its operating system suspends Bluetooth scanning when the app runs in the background. Balakrishnan said repeated discussions with Apple failed to resolve the problem.

 

The pivot to wearables is a signal that Singapore has no immediate plans to adopt contact-tracing technology from Apple and Google <GOOGL.O> rolled out last month, which has several restrictions designed to protect users' privacy.

 

Michael Veale, a lecturer in the law on digital rights and regulation at University College London who has been involved in developing contact-tracing apps, said Singapore's move into wearables presented "accountability and privacy concerns."

 

"Users will likely find it hard to scrutinise what the device is actually doing, or what information the back-end server uses or links," Veale said.

 

Singapore has said data collected through its earlier app is encrypted and stored locally in the user's phone, and will only be transferred to authorities if the individual is confirmed to be infected with COVID-19.

 

Some businesses have already adopted wearables for contact tracing in locations where smartphone usage is restricted, while governments like Bahrain and Hong Kong have used them for monitoring people under quarantine.

 

Vendors pitching wearables include Accent Advanced Systems, Kerlink, Microshare Inc and TRACEsafe Technologies Inc, though the companies have declined to comment on potential customers.

 

David Su, CEO of wireless chips firm Atmosic, said he expected "multiple governments, if not all governments in Asia" to adopt wearables because they are an affordable and reliable way to ensure widespread automated contact tracing.

 

A simple wristband with a Bluetooth chip, battery and some memory could cost about $10, or possibly less, according to vendors.

 

(Reporting by John Geddie and Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore; Paresh Dave in San Francisco and Douglas Busvine in Frankfurt; Editing by Robert Birsel, Toby Chopra and William Mallard)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2020-06-06
 
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Nothing a  piece of aluminium foil wouldn't counteract.

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Well at least Bill Gates is not behind this.

What do you expect from Singapore? 

They are a very specific society. 

I think the vast majority of people there trust that their government policies are in their Interests and freedoms and privacy are secondary to prosperity, health, and security. 

But I could be wrong. 

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10 minutes ago, Jingthing said:

I think the vast majority of people there trust that their government policies are in their Interests and freedoms and privacy are secondary to prosperity, health, and security. 

But I could be wrong. 

I'm sure you are right. I've lived under a number of differing governments, from democratic to autocratic and Singapore was the one that I found to be the most agreeable. What I would label a 'benign dictatorship'. (with just a hint of democracy to justify its membership of the Commonwealth) IMO they are firm but fair.

 

They are probably the one country that could implement a plan like this without public resistance. I can't see it happening here.

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Singapore will be the first society with implanted chips soon. The scary thing is the rest of the world will follow.

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4 hours ago, Crossy said:

Next stop, Three Seashells.

 

Stallone never did learn how to use them.

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4 hours ago, zeamonkey said:

Because it doesnt prevent YOU from getting anything. Any app or electronic device like this can do one thing, show where you are and where you've been.

Not quite, South Koreans have an app - gets location-based emergency messages that alert them when they are near a confirmed case of covid. 

 

From a SK student: "Now, I know which areas to avoid and I do feel like the government is doing a good job at keeping me informed."

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11 minutes ago, Bkk Brian said:

Not quite, South Koreans have an app - gets location-based emergency messages that alert them when they are near a confirmed case of covid. 

 

From a SK student: "Now, I know which areas to avoid and I do feel like the government is doing a good job at keeping me informed."

Confirmed cases should not be walking about the streets, so they would be rare.

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