Revealed in video posted to social media by Bloomberg, the TraceTogether Token is meant to constantly track the movement of a population, with the goal of 100% of the population carrying the device, which resembles an Apple Airpod case, or using the TraceTogether app, for the purpose of tracking COVID-19 outbreaks and preventing future epidemics or pandemics.
As Americans question the practice of contact tracing, Singapore currently leads the world in the initiative, with over a third of the country’s population having downloaded the TraceTogether smartphone app, which tracks and saves user location data. Should the user contract COVID-19, the app’s goal is to use this data to identify, isolate, and potentially treat any person the afflicted user may have come into contact with, though Bloomberg notes that the country is still far short of the 70% required for contact tracing to truly be effective.
The TraceTogether Token was created, then, with the goal of increasing the number of total users. The developers note that, resembling an Apple Airpod case, the device is not small enough to slip comfortably into a user’s back pocket, but could easily fit in a front pocket or a person’s bag or purse.
The device connects to other COVID-19 contact tracing enabled devices via Bluetooth to continue collecting data even without an Internet connection, and the device must be surrendered to the government if the user is diagnosed with COVID-19.
"It kind of looks like the Apple AirPods case."
— Bloomberg Quicktake (@Quicktake) September 22, 2020
According to Bloomberg, “the token uses Bluetooth signals to record other nearby contact-tracing devices”. Bloomberg also notes that “The island-state is believed to be the first country to roll out a portable device on top of its tracing app to more effectively fight the virus” as more of the world reopens their economies.
Of the app’s development and goals, Bloomberg wrote:
“What we want is to stitch those together and cover 100% of our population,” said Janil, who is also senior minister of state in the ministry of transport as well as communications and information. “We are geographically small and we can deploy at a city level. So it’s conceptually possible to put this in the hands of every Singaporean.”
Singapore resumed most activities last week with the government assessing the virus situation in the country to be under control. With more than 42,000 recorded infections, mostly driven by an outbreak among foreign workers living in cramped dormitories, officials have said that a robust testing and tracing regime is needed to open the economy safely.
In the United States, contact tracing initiatives have been met with skepticism due to overtly political ties. While politically left-leaning Google is partnered with one contact tracing initiative, and Chelsea Clinton was caught disparaging the country in audio recorded at her position on the board of another initiative. Meanwhile, contact tracers in New York will be required to have an understanding of “institutional and structural racism.”