Skip to main content




Singapore tests distancing dongles to track mingling at meetings as it looks ahead to hosting WEF

Singapore tests distancing dongles to track mingling at meetings as it looks ahead to hosting WEF

Medical workers are seen at a COVID-19 rapid antigen test center at Geo Connect Asia trade conference in Singapore on Mar 24, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Edgar Su)

SINGAPORE: A business gathering in Singapore is using movement dongles to make sure participants keep their distance, as the country prepares to start hosting big events safely in the lead-up to the World Economic Forum's (WEF) Special Annual Meeting in August.

The pocket-sized dongle, which utilises Bluetooth technology, tracks users’ information such as location, distance and interaction time between attendees at a two-day tech conference that started on Wednesday (Mar 24) at Marina Bay Sands (MBS).

Technology used at GEO Connect Asia on Mar 24, 2021.

The data collected will be uploaded to a system intermittently and organisers can check if anyone is breaching the Government’s social distancing rules and intervene if necessary.

The event, GEO Connect Asia 2021, is also using meeting pods with transparent screens to separate participants, while speakers, venue staff members and some delegates of the conference are required to undergo COVID-19 antigen rapid tests on site.

The movement tracker, use of which is not compulsory at the conference, is different to Singapore’s contact-tracing dongle TraceTogether, which says it shares data only in response to confirmed infections.

The conference has divided participants into zones and to reduce the frequency of contact. A typical breach would be being less than one metre apart from someone from another zone for more than 15 minutes.

The makers of the dongle also provided facial-recognition and a Quick Response, or QR code, contactless check-in system for the event.

GEO Connect Asia saw about 1,000 physical attendees over two days. ​​​​​​​


Technologies like the dongle are "building blocks" for the eventual resumption and recovery of the tourism industry, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan at the event.

"These are all very important building blocks for us to give confidence to the MICE industry ... and eventually also to look at setting these building blocks to a successful holding and organising of the World Economic Forum in August later this year," he said. 

READ: Holding WEF meeting in Singapore will send 'strong signal of confidence' in country's ability: Alvin Tan

So far, Singapore has held 60 events with about 250 attendees.

GEO Connect Asia 2021 is among two large-scale events with about 1,000 participants physically in attendance. The other was international travel trade show TravelRevive that was held in November.

"For each of these events, it gives us that confidence, which is basically building muscle to a gradual and calibrated opening up of the industry," Mr Tan said.

READ: World Economic Forum founder Klaus Schwab in Singapore to prepare for Special Annual Meeting in August

The technology used in GEO Connect Asia 2021 gives a good idea of what technology is currently available and being tested, said Mr Tan.

He cited the facial recognition technology used on Wednesday, which enables contactless temperature-taking, contactless video screening of faces, as well as contact tracing and proximity alarms.

On whether vaccinations would be a requirement for the WEF, Mr Tan said: "I think vaccines will be very much a game-changer."

Minister of State for Trade and Industry Alvin Tan at GEO Connect Asia on Mar 24, 2021.

He noted, however, that different countries are progressing in their vaccination programmes very differently, and that there is still time to evaluate the situation before August.

When asked if the WEF meeting would be held at MBS, Mr Tan said that it is iconic to Singapore. 

"I think it's a natural place for many of the organisers to use this place. So we will see what happens. I think WEF has to make the decision. But MBS is a very, very good venue for, as you have seen today, with Geo Connect and TravelRevive that was in November."

BOOKMARK THIS: Our comprehensive coverage of the coronavirus outbreak and its developments

Download our app or subscribe to our Telegram channel for the latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak:

Source: Reuters/cna/ic


Also worth reading