During event to pay tribute to estate cleaners, town council launches hi-tech system to keep watch on them

Photo: Brian Jeffery Beggerly / Flickr

While the Tampines Town Council may dub their new monitoring system as a way to optimize cleaning around its residential estate, from another perspective its pretty easy to see that it’s also a way to keep a beady eye on its cleaners, who’ll be under deep supervision via a tracking app.

Yesterday, the Tampines Town Council held a Cleaners’ Appreciation Nite, where about 180 workers were treated to food, drinks, and entertainment in a gesture to thank them for their work around the neighborhood. In conjunction with the event, the town council also launched the Estate Monitoring System, a way to keep the cleaners in check by tracking their routes through their smartphones.

Basically, the Estate Monitoring System (EMS) is a digital panopticon. TODAY reported that it’s an app installed on a cleaner’s mobile phone, which they will have to log into when they report for work. Their locations are tracked and updated every minute (yikes) and the app has the technology to monitor which HDB block’s level they’re on, and even what time they were there. The app automatically generates a report of the cleaner’s progress, and a future version could even include the capability for workers to take pictures of corridors before and after being cleaned.

If it sounds like targeted surveillance, it totally is, if we were to define it by technical terms. Clearly, not everyone is happy with the system, with one cleaner expressing to both TODAY and The Straits Times that he feels controlled by the company. Some netizens thought it might be breaching into the cleaners’ privacy.

In defense of the move, Tampines GRC Member of Parliament Cheng Li Hui posted on Facebook that it will help them identify where the workers are cleaning while also helping them allocate resources and plan schedules.

The system would also help protect cleaners from unjustified complaints from residents, she assured, as the system will verify their movements. She added that EMS has been a successful venture too — since it went on trial in August, the town council has seen a significant drop in the number of complaints about a lack of cleanliness in the estate, ST reported.

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