Around the world, public figures and private citizens alike are concerned about privacy infringement when it comes to contact tracing apps.

In a groundbreaking initiative designed to drive adoption, Singapore is developing new contact tracing wearable devices that do not rely on the internet, or cellular activity. This means that the data collected can only be extracted when the ‘wearer’ chooses to share it.

Previously, the country had experimented with other digital contact tracing tools, including SafeEntry, which depends on a system of QR codes. In this system, the QR codes are prominently featured at the entrances and exits points of venues. The data collected can be analyzed to determine who was in a particular location at a particular point in time, should one or more individuals later test positive for the coronavirus. This SafeEntry system is currently in effect across 16,000 locations in Singapore.

The wearable devices in development are slated for rollout later this month. Singapore’s Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation Initiative and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vivian Balakrishnan, says that the devices will be given to every resident of Singapore. This negates the need for each citizen to own a smartphone. Use of the device is not mandatory.

The public is still concerned though. Balakrishnan attempted to quell comments by saying “It is not a tracking device. It is not an electronic tag as some internet commentaries had fretted about…In particular, there’s no GPS chip on the device. Without a GPS chip, the device cannot track the location or movement of individuals.”

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