Singapore offers Bluetooth COVID-19 trackers to smartphone-less seniors

They’re an offline alternative to the country’s TraceTogether app.


It’s not a given that everyone has a smartphone. That’s usually all fine and good, but countries around the world are hoping to use the devices to track contact between those with COVID-19 and the rest of the public. To bring that functionality to seniors, the government in Singapore is sending Bluetooth pendants called TraceTogether tokens. They can communicate with each other -- as well as with the TraceTogether smartphone app -- to keep tabs on who has come into contact with the virus, no smartphone needed.

Priority is being given to the elderly who have little family support or have mobility problems. As more tokens are made, they’ll go out to a broader range of seniors. If a user does come into contact with someone with COVID-19, a contact tracing officer will reach out so that they know to get checked. If a healthcare provider determines that the person contracted the virus, data can be downloaded from the device for deeper insights into who the person came into contact with.

To address privacy concerns, TraceTogether tokens have no WiFi, cellular or GPS capabilities, and they only hold the past 25 days’ worth of data. (The incubation period for COVID-19 is thought to be about 14 days.)

Hopefully these devices help seniors stay safe and quickly get help if needed. It’s easy to forget that some people don’t have smartphones, so these fallbacks could fill an important gap.