Singapore plans to combine contact tracing with temperature screening

By Yun Xuan Poon

Gerard Chew, Head of Innovation Lab at IHiS, shares future plans for a locally-built AI thermometer.

Singapore plans to integrate its contact tracing app with an AI-powered thermometer, healthtech agency IHiS has said. This will provide “an integrated screening and reporting option”, Gerard Chew, Head of Innovation Lab at IHiS tells GovInsider.

IHiS supported Singapore start-up KroniKare in developing the AI thermometer, iThermo. It can screen up to 30 people a minute, making it much faster than handheld thermometers.

More than 160 iThermo units have been deployed across Singapore as of July 2020. GovInsider spoke to Chew to find out how the tool will be expanded, and how it has already made a difference.

Future plans

IHiS plans to integrate iThermo with SafeEntry, a QR code system that records which public places residents visit. The system would be able to log individual temperatures as well, combining two pieces of vital information for contact tracing officials.

“We are also developing an additional “backpack” for iThermo that can be controlled via Bluetooth,” Chew shares. This will act as a “traffic light” indicator for units that are deployed at a distance, so screening staff can regulate the flow of people and prevent overcrowding.

iThermo was adapted from an existing wound-scanning device, and uses a smartphone or tablet with thermal and 3D laser cameras to scan temperatures. This is possible as AI simplifies the temperature detection process, Chew explains.

The tool uses AI to measure forehead temperature, even for those wearing headgear such as spectacles or face masks. It takes ambient temperature and distance away from the thermometer into account as well. This means cold air ducts and hot drinks won’t interfere with the scanning, and the thermometer can be used in sheltered outdoor environments.

iThermo sends SMS and email alerts to screening staff when it detects someone with a higher temperature. It also provides real-time dashboard updates on rate of traffic and the number of people with high temperature. “The anonymous, non-personal data collected from screenings (location, device, time, temperature and alert) can be sent to a dashboard to support operations monitoring,” Chew shares.

iThermo is one of the few fever scanners registered as a Class B medical device by Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority, he notes. Medical devices such as thermometers have to be registered to be sold and used in Singapore.

iThermo’s impact

Image: Kronikare.

“Temperature screening with forehead thermometers requires close proximity, is time-consuming, manpower intensive and creates long queues that could increase the chance of spreading infection,” explains Chew.

iThermo significantly reduces the workload of screening staff. It can screen up to 5000 individuals a day, and staff only need to manually record the temperatures of suspected cases detected by iThermo, he says.

This has made a difference across Singapore. The Association for Persons with Special Needs shared that the automated temperature taking process has minimised disruptions to their students’ routines, and has allowed staff to focus on other areas of need. iThermo has also improved the flow of staff, visitors and clients at the Ang Mo Kio Thye Hua Kwan Hospital, especially during peak visiting hours.

The thermometer can be enhanced with additional features. IHiS has 10 advanced iThermo units on its premises that measure employees’ temperatures and scan the barcode on their employee pass. They automatically register employees’ temperature records, and help streamline mandatory temperature-taking, Chew notes.

Healthtech doesn’t have to be complicated. Singapore built a smartphone-based temperature scanner from existing tech, and will continue to enhance it to keep citizens safe.