First batch of TraceTogether tokens distributed to 10,000 seniors

This article is more than 12 months old

One 82-year-old doesn't understand the tech but feels safer with it

The face mask is not the only item that Mr Ng Cheong Hwee has to remember to take with him whenever he leaves home - he now carries the TraceTogether token as well.

Even though the 82-year-old retiree does not understand the technology behind it, he does feel "safer" when going out with it hanging around his neck.

"I don't know how it works, but I was told that if I was near a Covid-19 patient, the authorities would know and I would be informed.

"That makes me feel quite assured," he told The Straits Times in Mandarin.

Mr Ng is among the 10,000 seniors who received the first batch of the dongles, which are an alternative to the TraceTogether smartphone app that is used for contact tracing.

Like the app, the tokens work by exchanging Bluetooth signals with other nearby tokens or devices running the TraceTogether app.

When a TraceTogether user is confirmed to have the virus, contact tracers from the Ministry of Health will contact the user to facilitate the download of data from the device.

Contact tracers then use this data to determine and contact the patient's close contacts.

The first batch of tokens were handed out to vulnerable seniors in a three-day distribution exercise from June 28.

Recipients include those who are living on their own, have poor family support, are physically frail, or do not own or use digital devices.

Volunteers and staff with the Silver Generation Office (SGO) distributed the dongles through house visits and explained the purpose and use of the tokens to the seniors.

Ms Noelle Caleb J.G., 72, is another senior who received a token.

She uses a smartphone to WhatsApp her friends and family, and watches videos on YouTube, but she does not know how to download more apps.

Even though she finds it convenient to carry the dongle in her handbag, she expressed concerns over it tracking her every move.

"Will my personal information get out there accidentally and get me in trouble? That's always at the back of my mind," she said.

The token captures only proximity data based on Bluetooth signals and holds data in an encrypted format for no more than 25 days.

The encrypted data cannot be remotely extracted as the device does not have any Internet connectivity.

The tokens also cannot capture geolocation data, as it has no Global Positioning System.

The portable devices have a battery life of six to nine months and does not need to be charged.

The Smart Nation and Digital Government Group said: "SGO will continue to generate more awareness about the token among our prioritised population, such as through telephone engagements and other opportunistic engagements with seniors, while Government efforts are underway to distribute the token to more seniors."