Local electronics firm PCI awarded S$6m tender to supply COVID-19 TraceTogether Tokens

Local electronics firm PCI awarded S$6m tender to supply COVID-19 TraceTogether Tokens

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Singapore
Office workers wearing face masks take their lunch break at the central business district amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore on Jun 2, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su)

SINGAPORE: Singapore-based electronics maker PCI has won a bid to supply 300,000 dongles to help identify people who have interacted with COVID-19 carriers.

The S$6 million tender is equivalent to S$20 a unit for the bluetooth-enabled TraceTogether Tokens.

According to a Government notice, the tender was awarded by the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) to the firm on May 14. 

"GovTech has contracted PCI to manufacture an initial batch of TraceTogether Tokens," the agency said in an email to Reuters, adding it will tender for the design, manufacturing and delivery of further batches.

The pilot project comes after smartphone-based contact tracing app TraceTogether had limited take-up as it did not work efficiently on some devices.

Apple's iOS suspended Bluetooth scanning when the app was running in the background, meaning users had to leave it in the foreground, without using other apps.

READ: COVID-19 contact tracing ‘absolutely essential’; wearable TraceTogether tokens to be rolled out in June

PCI Private, which started as a Silicon Valley circuit board manufacturer in 1972 and was bought by American private equity firm Platinum Equity for S$265 million last year, declined to comment on the tender.

The contract puts PCI in line for business that could be worth more than S$110 million if tokens are rolled out to all 5.7 million residents as planned.

LISTEN: TraceTogether token and contact tracing apps: Privacy, data usage and other big questions

Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation initiative Vivian Balakrishnan on Monday said that the first batch of contact tracing devices will be delivered in the second half of June. 

Those without smartphones will be prioritised and the tokens will likely be distributed through community centres. 

Similar to the app, the wearable device will use Bluetooth signals to record nearby devices but cannot capture location data and does not have Internet or cellular connectivity. 

READ: COVID-19: How smartphone apps can help with contact tracing

Addressing privacy concerns, Dr Balakrishnan said the dongle was not a tracking device or an electronic tag. 

"In particular, and here to be technical, there is no GPS chip on the device. There isn't even any Internet or mobile telephone connectivity," he said. 

"There are safeguards including encryption in place to protect this from malicious hackers and the data that's older than 25 days will be automatically deleted from your phone."

Without a GPS chip, the device cannot track an individual’s location and movements. Without Internet connectivity, there is “no possibility” of data being uploaded “without the participation and consent of the user”, he added. 

As of Thursday, Singapore has reported a total of 39,387 COVID-19 cases with 25 deaths. 

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Source: Reuters/CNA/zl(nc)

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