Quarantine bracelets help Bermuda shine
Quarantine bracelets are helping to spread the word about Bermuda as a place for new tech ideas, and assisting the island to keep a lid on Covid-19.
Bermuda rolled out the technology in the summer. It has now been taken up in other places, notably Hawaii. And Bermuda benefits from a royalty payment each time bracelets are purchased.
A collaboration between the Bermuda Government and Bermudian-based Hub Culture led to the bracelet innovation, which was inspired by a device used in Hong Kong during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
In Bermuda, the bracelets are issued to anyone arriving from overseas without a negative Covid-19 test result. The bracelets use a combination of bluetooth and GPS technology, paired with a phone, to monitor a person and ensure they are not breaching their quarantine restrictions, which end when they have a second negative Covid test and are cleared by the Ministry of Health.
The bracelets were rolled out in Bermuda at the end of August, and are being now being used in Hawaii and other locations, such as hotels and resorts.
The idea for the Active Quarantine User Ally platform, known as Aqua, came from the Bermuda Global Fintech Advisory Board, which is a committee that provides “thought leadership” and advice for the Government’s technology strategy.
The chairman of the board is Stan Stalnaker, chief strategy officer at Hub Culture. He said that in March it learnt about bracelets that Hong Kong was developing for quarantine management. However, the cost of licensing the technology for use by Bermuda was prohibitive.
But Hub Culture worked out a plan to licence a component of the technology.
Mr Stalnaker said: “The Government told us what they needed, and so we set to work to build a new product that took the core technology. We wanted to grow the idea of Bermuda as a global technology innovator, and look at the principals that are important for Bermuda – the idea of user data privacy, individual data ownership, some of the best-in-class principals for consumer protections.
“We wanted to create a product that put the owner of the data in control of the data, and gave the government the ability to monitor as they needed to, but being respectful to the data privacy of the end user. That is how the product was born.”
David Burt, the Premier, described the initiative during a Covid-19 press briefing. He said: "To implement this initiative, we hired eight vendors, thus providing jobs for eight young Bermudians.
“They are being led by Superintendent James Howard from the Bermuda Police Service and Major Wayne Smith from the Fintech Business Unit, and are called the Aqua Monitoring Team. They are being supported by colleagues from the information and Digital Technology Department. The bracelet is paired with a smartphone, it uses bluetooth technology and geolocation to show the user’s location and allows the team to see any violations of the quarantine rules.”
He added: “Bermuda has proved itself to be a global leader and this solution is helping to save lives, businesses, tourism, economies and causing people to travel safely.”
Mr Stalnaker said: “As a Bermuda company we have always been global, but this product was able to be tested and rolled out in Bermuda very successfully. Now other places have noticed that and we have adapted it to use in locations such as hotels and resorts.”
Aqua features about five per cent of the technology that was used in the platform developed in Hong Kong. It is built on Hub culture’s HubID digital identity framework, putting the user in charge of their data and how it is used.
Mr Burt said: “The service sets the highest standards for data transparency and control by the member, but also provides the needed quarantine information to authorities who have to maintain quarantine.”
Meanwhile, Mr Stalnaker said: “We are excited about how Bermuda benefits from this, because there is a royalty for every wearable that is sold anywhere in the world, which goes back to support Bermuda, which helps lower the cost of use and development for Bermuda.
"There is real potential for more people to use it. We have had inquires for larger numbers of orders. It really depends on how quarantine is being managed internationally and whether or not people feel a three, eight or 14-day quarantine is going to be necessary going forward. In places that have a good control on the virus, like Bermuda, like Hawaii, then there is more potential.“
He added: “It underlines how important Bermuda is as a place for these new ideas. This is a great story for how people can own their own data. Bermuda is proving to be a place where individual data privacy and data rights can reside.”
Mr Stalnaker said Bermuda had done controlling Covid-19 because of its testing regime. He said: “That’s what is really making the difference. Aqua is a small part of the Bermuda equation and active testing. We can't take any credit for what is happening in Bermuda, because that's a bunch of other people who have done an incredible job. The Government and the Department of Health should get a lot of credit for the way they have been able to implement processes that exceed almost anywhere in the world in terms of their efficiency.”