Contact Tracing the Thai Way: QR Codes

While the world is joining forces to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, the technology sector is also working on contact tracing technology that will soon land into the hands of more than a million people.

Thailand, ranked 6th in Global Health Security Index, has developed its own bespoke contact tracing platform employing the country’s tried-and-true technology— QR codes.

‘5 maximum customers’ poster

From brochures to payments to sales discounts and now contact tracing, Thailand has always adopted this simple technology in many of its core infrastructure. Anybody can familiarise themselves easily to the straightforward usage of QR codes.

Announced just a week before this blog post, Thai Chana or ไทยชนะ — literally ‘Thai Wins’ — is the country’s self-developed contact tracing platform.

A QR code placed at a store

The just-launched website allows business owners to register their businesses and add information like name, capacity as directed by the social distancing measure (1 person per 5 square metres), and coordinates. The businesses then receive their unique QR codes to print and place at their stores.

Main screen (left) and check-in result (right)

Before entering a store, visitors are required to scan the QR code which then directs to a web page of the store. On the first scan they need to input their phone numbers, which is the only identifier the platform collects. The web page presents choices to ‘check-in’ to or ‘check-out’ of the stores. Visitors without mobile phones can sign their names and phone numbers on a paper.

Check-out survey (left) and check-out result (right)

Business owners can also view how many people are currently in the store through the website.

The drawbacks of Thai Chana is that it is completely manual for visitors to check themselves in and out of the venue, in which the process could be forgotten by some people albeit reminded by the staff.

Moreover, people could exploit the process by copying the QR code and scan it without actually being present at a particular place.

Thai Chana could employ Bluetooth beacon technology to help automate the check-in and check-out process, although that means more development time and a need to install a mobile application.

Thailand is not the only country with a bespoke contact tracing platform. Singapore has developed TraceTogether, a contact tracing app that uses Bluetooth to determine if a person gets close to the other who also has the app. In a different approach, South Korea uses data from CCTV’s and credit cards to determine a person’s location.

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