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Category: Tech

Smart deploys digital tech to improve delivery of public health services

Smart Communications is harnessing technology to help improve the productivity and efficiency of healthcare providers assigned in rural health units (RHUs). Smart has been actively deploying its electronic medical record…

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Smart Communications is harnessing technology to help improve the productivity and efficiency of healthcare providers assigned in rural health units (RHUs).

Smart has been actively deploying its electronic medical record platform named SHINE OS+ or the Secured Health Innovation Network Exchange (Open Source) in RHUs mostly in the Visayas where many Filipinos don’t have access to quality healthcare.

Raise productivity, efficiency

The digitization of patient records using SHINE has helped raise the productivity and efficiency of 35 local health facilities since RHU personnel spend less time looking for the records of patients coming in for a consult. This also makes it easier for the RHU to refer patients seeking more intensive treatment to tertiary hospitals elsewhere in the province.

Since 2015, Smart’s SHINE OS+ has been able to digitize close to 177,700 patient records from 25 RHUs covering 23 municipalities in Cebu; four RHUs from Iloilo; three from Rizal in Metro Manila; and one each for Bohol, Kalibo, and Masbate.

SHINE OS+ Samboan

SHINE TRAINING. Members of the Samboan rural health units undergo a training on how to use the electronic medical record platform SHINE OS+.

With the validation of SHINE OS+ by the Philippine Health Information Exchange, patient records in the 35 RHUs will now be automatically transmitted to the eRecords of the Philippine Health Corp. or PhilHealth. This allows for faster processing of incentives for RHU personnel in exchange for services rendered as provided for by the Primary Care Benefit Package of Philhealth. Once claims are released, the municipal health officer can utilize the funds for RHU enhancement, while the remaining amount will be shared among the health workers as extra payment for services rendered.

Prompt, efficient delivery of healthcare

“We have here a situation where everyone is happy because of SHINE OS+–the patients for prompt and efficient delivery of healthcare services; the government for the improved delivery of healthcare; PhilHealth for the digitization of patient records; and local health personnel for additional income earned from rendering services to the patients,” said Atty. Maria C. Jane Paredes, head of Public Affairs, VisMin, at Smart.

“Smart enables the provision of quality healthcare to more Filipinos, particularly those in underserved areas. We have been working with like-minded institutions like Ateneo to make technology work for development, in this case, making a responsive and quality healthcare a reality for more Filipinos,” said Ramon R. Isberto, head of Public Affairs at Smart.

The Ateneo Java Wireless Competency Center, which developed the SHINE OS+ also developed SHINE OS+ Mobile to make the platform and its functionalities accessible to health professionals anytime, anywhere; and MySHINE, which was designed as a companion app for patients whose healthcare records are stored in the network.

SHINE OS+ runs on an open source platform, allowing developers to design modules and plugins to customize it according to the needs of beneficiary communities. (Press release)

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AI to empower workers but employees need to enhance skills to meet new challenges: Accenture

Tapping artificial intelligence or AI frees up employees from repetitive tasks to focus on higher value work, officials of Accenture said. “The intent is to amplify, enable, and empower people…

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Tapping artificial intelligence or AI frees up employees from repetitive tasks to focus on higher value work, officials of Accenture said.

“The intent is to amplify, enable, and empower people to do more,” said JP Palpallatoc, Accenture managing director and digital lead in the Philippines. “That’s the intent of AI. If we are able to use it properly, we can achieve that.”

Palpallatoc said the tasks that AI can best replace are what the industry dub as the 3 Ds. “Dirty, dull, and dangerous jobs. those are things that are ripe to be replaced by AI,” Palpallatoc said in an interview during the recent Transformation Summit in Cebu.

Accenture Cebu Transformation Summit

AI IS THE NEW UI. Palpallatoc, Accenture managing director and digital lead in the Philippines, discusses key technology trends during the Transformation Summit in Cebu.

Ride the tech wave

“Would it have a negative impact? In our experience in Accenture, we have been able to ride the wave rather than be sunk by it by actively multi-skilling our people,” said Accenture managing director Arvin Yason.

Palpallatoc and Yason gave talks during the Transformation Summit held at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu. Palpallatoc talked about key technology trends uncovered in a global survey of business and information technology executives by Accenture.

Among the key trends spotted in the study is that of AI being the new user interface or UI.

“AI is becoming more mature. It is simplifying and making all interactions smarter. In the future, the AI will become a spokesperson for a company or the brand,” said Palpallatoc.

Accenture Cebu Transformation Summit

AI CAPABILITIES. Accenture managing director Arvin Yason talks about the capabilities of AI and such fields as video analytics.

Computer vision

Yason expanded on AI and discussed what he described as “one of the more under-appreciated technologies in the past year,” which is computer vision.

“Everything from being able to remember where you left your phone or being able to track who the people are on the production floor. These will be realized over the next few years because of the rapidly evolving computer vision technologies,” he said. During his talk, he showed how security cameras paired with AI can recognize fights and other security issues as well as traffic incidents.

Yason said there are many things AI can do on top of serving as virtual assistants. “Our financial clients use AI to do fraud detection. Whether they are cheating on an insurance form or claim or something else. We also use AI in conjunction with medical specialists to either provide better diagnosis or to even augment certain procedures.”

JP Palpallatoc Arvin Yason Accenture

AI AND KEY TRENDS. Accenture managing directors Arvin Yason (left) and JP Palpallatoc discuss AI and technology trends in a press conference held on the sidelines of the Transformation Summit in Cebu.

More jobs but higher skills needed

When asked whether AI adoption will have a negative impact on employment, Palpallatoc said there is likely to be, instead, a “net addition” in the number of jobs in the country.

“There is a reduction from the low skill but there is also an increase in the mid and the high. And I think the important thing here is for us to get that particular opportunity. We need to re-skill, multi-skill and up-skill our people so that we are able to do the high-level skilled work,” he said.

“In Accenture, we have been actively cross training and upskilling our people from the older technologies and the more manual processes to the relevant technologies that will be used to build AI and other new IT skills,” Yason said.

To those who fear AI, Palpallatoc said, “The power is with us. For the AI to act, they need to be trained, they need to be taught, they need to be provided data, they need to be guided as well.”

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Cebu City gets P9.6 billion monthly from IT/BPM; P20 billion monthly by 2019

The IT and BPM industry brings in P9.6 billion in new money to Cebu City every month. By the end of 2019, that figure will balloon to P20 billion monthly,…

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The IT and BPM industry brings in P9.6 billion in new money to Cebu City every month. By the end of 2019, that figure will balloon to P20 billion monthly, even by low estimates, said Cebu City consultant Joel Mari Yu.

Yu gave an overview of IT/BPM in Cebu City in yesterday’s Transformation Summit at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu. Yu led the now defunct Cebu Investment Promotions Center, which has been credited with bringing in investments to the city.

“The numbers I’m showing you are modest assumptions based on first class data gathered from primary sources,” Yu prefaced his presentation.

Joel Mari Yu IT/BPM Cebu City

WHAT WE NEED TO DO. By dealing with aggravating circumstances for investors in Cebu, the target of 200,000 employees in the IT/BPM industry by 2019 can be easily achieved, said Cebu City consultant Joel Mari Yu.

Direct, indirect employment

The average salary of an IT employee in Cebu City is P30,000 a month, growing at 10% a year. From just 1 company in 2004, there are now 456 IT/BPM companies in Cebu City.

Assuming a 1:1 ratio between salaries and wages and operating expense, P7.6 billion in new money flows into Cebu monthly, Yu said. This is based on an employee count of 130,260 in 2016. The figure is also limited to Cebu City and does not take into account locations like Mandaue City and Lapu-Lapu City.

With a low estimate of P10,000 monthly rate for indirect employment, Cebu City gets P2 billion from indirect employment.

“Combine the 2, it’s 9.6 billion that flows into Cebu every month. Minimum. That’s on the assumption of 130,000 workers. There could be much more,” he said.

By targeting 200,000 employees in 2019, Cebu City will be getting P20 billion monthly.

Cebu IT/BPM growth

New money coming in

“This is new money coming in monthly,” Yu said. “When Shoemart makes money, they sell to Juan to pay Pedro. It’s recirculated money. But when you bring in a foreign investor, the money is remitted from abroad every month. Every single month they remit money to pay for their expenses, for their operations in this country.”

Today, Yu said, Cebu City gets P464 million in monthly rental income from IT/BPM companies. By 2019, that will grow to at least P700 million monthly.

Hitting the target of 200,000 IT/BPM employees in Cebu City by end of 2019 is achievable, Yu said. It will not even entail promotions and marketing.

Fix aggravating circumstances

“It is a matter of Cebu City dealing with aggravating circumstances facing the IT/BPM industry,” Yu said.

These key problems are transportation and traffic, security and safety, housing, and the need for a one-stop shop for processing employment papers. By dealing with these problems, Cebu City will get even more investments and locators.

“I do not like the former mayor because he was one of the bigger reasons why the CIPC closed shop,” Yu said to end his talk. “But he said something and I would like to end by quoting him. Can we do this? Together we can make it happen.”

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CEDFIT expands mandate, transforms into Cebu IT/BPM industry association

Seeing the need for an organization that will look after the interest of the information technology and business process management sector in Cebu, the Cebu Educational Development Foundation for Information…

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Seeing the need for an organization that will look after the interest of the information technology and business process management sector in Cebu, the Cebu Educational Development Foundation for Information Technology (CEDFIT) has transformed itself into the Cebu IT/BPM Organization (CIB.O).

CIB.O is a full industry association that will look after the interest of the sector, expanding from CEDFIT’s role of bridging the talent gap between industry and academe and taking on more roles like promotions and expanding collaboration.

CEDFIT was organized after the Cebu is IT Summit in 2001, when the business community and government agreed to work together to make Cebu a preferred IT destination. At that time, the biggest concern raised by industry was the gap in skills of graduates produced by schools in Cebu.

CEDFIT CIB.O

TRANSFORMATION SUMMIT. Officials raise a toast to mark the transformation of CEDFIT into the Cebu IT/BPM Organization or CIB.O during the Transformation Summit in Marco Polo Plaza Cebu. Leading the ceremony is CIB.O chairman Francis Monera.

Bridge academe-industry gap

CEDFIT has been able to partly bridge that gap with its industry programs, officials said. Cebu has a better employability grade, even compared with the National Capital Region. Other places in the country have an employability rate of 6% to 7%. Graduates in Cebu, on the other hand, have a 28% to 29% employability rating.

“CIB.O’s vision is to make Cebu as the preferred IT/BPM location for higher value IT and IT-enabled services,” said CIB.O chairman Francis Monera. “The organization’s mission is to develop and promote the strengths of Cebu and sustain the growth of its IT/BPM industry through driving collaboration, innovation, and excellence.”

Monera said CEDFIT had a lot of successful programs and worked on initiatives apart from talent development but “these were all ad hoc.” CIB.O will formalize and expand that, he said in a press conference held at the sidelines of the Transformation Summit at the Marco Polo Plaza Cebu.

Higher value IT services

CIB.O will complement the local industry by continuing to provide human resource development and taking on marketing and infrastructure promotion to make Cebu as preferred IT destination for higher value services. CIB.O has 128 members that comprise IT/BPM companies, academe, support groups, government agencies, and civil organizations.

Digital Transformation Summit chairman Jun Sa-a said a key initial advocacy of CIB.O would be security and data privacy, especially with the Data Privacy Law going into full effect this year.

Sustain industry growth

“It is high time that Cebu has a fulltime industry association after growing so big. We can now become more focused on the needs of our main IT/BPM players and help sustain the industry’s growth,” Sa-a said.

Monera said IT is the main driver behind Cebu’s robust growth. This can be seen with the growth from 2009 to 2014 exceeding the growth in the 20-year period before that.

Cebu now has 300 IT/BPM companies with 140,000 employees. CIB.O said Cebu is “aiming to capture higher value services such IT outsourcing, health information management, shared services, engineering services, banking and financial services, software development, research and development, among others.”

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Smart holds festival, rekindles love for local stories

Centuries ago, a girl named Maria lived in what is now known as Conalum, a mountainous area in the town of Argao which is about two hours away from Cebu…

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Centuries ago, a girl named Maria lived in what is now known as Conalum, a mountainous area in the town of Argao which is about two hours away from Cebu City. People called her Maria Cacao, as she owned a cacao plantation from which they sourced the beans they used to create tablea. To this day, residents of Argao produce these chocolate tablets.

Town Mayor Stanley Caminero shared this legend with a rapt audience of children and adults at the culmination of the three-day “Istorya Mo, Nagpaabot Ako: Kwentuhang Batibot Caravan and Story Festival.” Organized by Smart Communications in cooperation with the local government, the caravan sought to rekindle people’s love for storytelling, especially the sharing of local tales.

Preservation of local heritage, culture

Caminero said the story of Maria Cacao could not be found in any book; it is a story that has been orally passed by Argao locals from generation to generation.

“If you think about it, the oldest heritage is stories,” he said, adding that storytelling is important not just for the preservation of local heritage and culture, but for the education of children as well.

Argao Storytelling

Argao Mayor Stanley Caminero shares the Legend of Maria Cacao with school children.

Aside from Caminero, the festival’s featured storytellers included Rey Bufi of The Storytelling Project, Argao college students and elementary pupils, a parent, a teacher, and Sun.Star Superbalita editors and writers.

The festival also included trainings on storytelling and story writing for Education students of the Cebu Technological University (CTU)-Argao campus.

Make lessons fun

CTU student Chariss Ampoon said that from the trainings given by Bufi and children’s book writer Michael Jude Tumamac, she picked up tips on how to manage a classroom and give life to tales.

Maria Elena Bajo, who teaches second grade in Argao’s Binlod Elementary School, said stories make lessons fun, and can be integrated in a lot of subjects, even Math.

Aside from holding storytelling festivals, Smart also promotes the Batibot app as a way to encourage love for stories among children. Created by Smart in partnership with the Community of Learners Foundation and developer OrangeFix, the app has a feature called “Kuwentong Batibot.”

The Batibot app is the first educational app in the Filipino language that is aligned with the kindergarten curriculum of the Department of Education. It can be downloaded for free on Android devices.

The Batibot app promotes love for storytelling among kids through its Kuwentong Batibot feature.

Modern tools

Through games in the app, such as the Batibot classic “Alin ang Naiba?”, children in their formative years can also learn basic concepts like matching, sorting, and grouping. They are shown how to identify shapes, colors, numbers, the alphabet, and letter sounds. The children can also practice tracing letters with the proper strokes.

Teacher Mira Vissa L. Padron of Argao Central Elementary School said the use of 21st century tools to promote the culture of storytelling would be a big help to them in the classroom. (Press Release)

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Smart LTE is fastest in the Philippines: J.P.Morgan study

Smart Communications is delivering the fastest LTE service in the country, with average download speeds steadily improving through the months, a J.P.Morgan study showed. In an April 2017 report based…

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Smart Communications is delivering the fastest LTE service in the country, with average download speeds steadily improving through the months, a J.P.Morgan study showed.

In an April 2017 report based on the actual mobile experience of OpenSignal app users, J.P.Morgan said Smart “leads in overall LTE download speeds and at regional levels.” The OpenSignal app enables mobile data users to run their own speed tests.

At the country level, Smart recorded an average LTE download speed of 10.91 Mbps from December 2016 to February 2017. It averaged 11.76 Mbps in Metro Manila, 8.56 Mbps in South Luzon, and 10.42 Mbps in the Visayas in the same period.

Smart LTE

BETTER COVERAGE. Smart is re-equipping its cell sites to use low-frequency bands such as 700 MHz and 850 MHz to provide better indoor coverage. It is also deploying high-frequency bands like 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz to increase the cell sites’ capacity to handle mobile data traffic.

Average LTE speeds improved

Aside from beating competition in the LTE arena, Smart has also improved its average LTE speeds in all areas covered by the study. Its latest figures are its highest in the last eight testing periods of OpenSignal.

Moreover, Smart led in terms of average 3G download speeds at the country level (2.22 Mbps) and in Metro Manila (3.25 Mbps). These 3G figures are also Smart’s highest in the last eight testing periods.

“We are happy to know that our subscribers are increasingly enjoying our newest and fastest LTE network. We have made intensive capital outlay to accelerate the deployment of LTE sites because LTE significantly boosts the speed, quality, and reliability of our mobile data service,” said PLDT-Smart chief technology and information advisor Joachim Horn.

Better indoor coverage

Smart is re-equipping its cell sites to use low-frequency bands such as 700 MHz and 850 MHz to provide better indoor coverage. It is also deploying high-frequency bands like 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz to increase the cell sites’ capacity to handle mobile data traffic.

PLDT and Smart have committed to make LTE progressively available to 95% of the country’s cities and municipalities by the end of 2018.

“While the J.P.Morgan study did not include Mindanao, our subscribers are already experiencing improved LTE service there, particularly in Metro Davao where we have completed our network overhaul program,” Horn said.

Superior digital experience

“Soon, more Filipinos from all over the country will enjoy a digital experience like never before,” said PLDT-Smart chief revenue officer Eric Alberto. “Our network dominance and reliability will enable us to deliver a superior digital experience to Filipinos, whose appetite for relevant digital content is constantly growing.”

Horn said that through its LTE rollout, Smart was also laying the foundation for further service improvements, such as LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) which can provide even faster speeds and greater capacity to subscribers.

He added that while Smart was boosting its LTE services, it continued to fortify its 3G network to better serve the majority of its smartphone-owning subscribers, who are using 3G handsets. (Press Release)

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Smart makes 1st Voice over LTE (VoLTE) call in the Philippines

Smart Communications, together with its technology partner Ericsson, recently made the Philippines’ first successful mobile call using Voice over Long-Term Evolution (LTE), or VoLTE. “We are excited to be the…

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Smart Communications, together with its technology partner Ericsson, recently made the Philippines’ first successful mobile call using Voice over Long-Term Evolution (LTE), or VoLTE.

“We are excited to be the first network in the country to successfully use VoLTE, because this technology holds so much promise in terms of improving the quality of mobile service available to our customers. Voice will always be an important mobile application, and VoLTE is the platform of the future which will provide the best customer experience when it comes to voice communications,” said Joachim Horn, chief technology and information advisor at PLDT and Smart.

Sean Gowran, Head of Ericsson Philippines and Pacific Islands, said, “This partnership with Smart in making the first live VoLTE capability available in the Philippines helps reinforce Smart’s technology leadership in mobile communications and its commitment to bring the best customer experience to its subscribers in the country. With the introduction of VoLTE, Smart will ensure and further enhance voice quality, while also enabling a broader range of communication capabilities.”

VoLTE uses LTE, also known as 4G, to transmit voice calls, unlike the current practice where calls go through 2G or 3G mobile networks. As such, VoLTE requires strong and ubiquitous LTE coverage.

“We have completed a number of key improvement projects in the last few months, and these have turned our network into a strong platform for offering advanced, purely digital services, such as VoLTE,” said Horn.

Built for the future

Since LTE — a technology built primarily for data — is very efficient in carrying data traffic, a voice call transmitted over LTE is of crystal clear quality, with almost no background noise. Devices with built-in VoLTE capability will natively support it, and will not require a separate, over-the-top (OTT) application.

It also guarantees direct, global reach similar to the phone services of today, unlike OTTs that require both caller and receiver to be on the same app. Call set-up time, or the amount of time it takes for one mobile phone to connect to another through a voice call, is also drastically reduced with VoLTE.

Once deployed by Smart in its network, VoLTE will allow users with VoLTE-capable devices to stay on the 4G/LTE network even when making or receiving a call. This is unlike how, at present, LTE devices automatically shift to 3G or 2G when these make a voice call. This means that a user can simultaneously be in a voice call, while actively using high-speed data for other applications.

Currently offered by only a handful of leading operators in the world, VoLTE will also allow Smart subscribers to make video calls without tapping a third-party, OTT app. In the same trials, Smart and Ericsson successfully tested video over LTE, using the built-in calling functionality of a smartphone.

IMPROVING COVERAGE. Smart is in the middle of a three-year program to provide LTE coverage in 95% of the country’s cities and municipalities.

Rapid LTE deployment

“It will take a little time for VoLTE to be fully deployed, largely because capable handsets are either still too expensive, or manufacturers have yet to activate this feature in their existing advanced models. But the excellent results of these tests provide another reason for us to pursue our aggressive LTE roll-out across the Philippines, since ubiquitous LTE coverage is a clear pre-requisite to VoLTE adoption,” added Horn.

Smart is in the middle of a three-year program to provide LTE coverage in 95% of the country’s cities and municipalities. This rapid deployment will make Smart’s LTE service available to 97% of the country’s population, or to users in 1,551 cities and municipalities across the country by end-2018.

According to Horn, LTE is the best technology to help bring fast, affordable, and reliable internet services to as many customers as possible, as more LTE devices becomes available in the market. LTE also provides the platform that will easily allow Smart users to step up to even more advanced technologies like LTE Advanced (LTE-A).

Smart was also the first operator to offer LTE-A in the Philippines last year, when it demonstrated the capability of high-speed mobile internet through Carrier Aggregation in Boracay. Now available in urban areas like Metro Davao, Metro Cebu, and in greater Metro Manila, Smart’s LTE-A delivers peak speeds of over 100 Mbps to users with LTE-A capable devices.

“We are constantly looking ahead to anticipate the ever increasing demands of our customers, and to deliver our services in the best possible quality. Our initiatives in LTE-A, in VoLTE, and eventually in 5G, will allow us to do just that,” said Horn. (Press Release)

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Smart soon to offer P1 per minute call to any network

Smart subscribers will soon have more reasons to stay in touch with friends and loved ones as the mobile leader is set to roll out Smart Express Call 50, which…

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Smart subscribers will soon have more reasons to stay in touch with friends and loved ones as the mobile leader is set to roll out Smart Express Call 50, which offers calls to any network for as low as P1 per minute.

Smart Express Call 50 will provide subscribers with 50 minutes of all-net calls, valid for 3 days, essentially bringing down the cost of calling your family and friends on any network to only P1 per minute. Smart subscribers will be able to enjoy Smart Express Call 50 as an add-on to top Smart Prepaid offers, boosting Smart’s already feature-packed data, call, and text promos.

Also for postpaid subscribers

The P1 per minute all-net call rates shall also be made available for Smart Postpaid subscribers who may enjoy the rates on top of their existing plan.

TNT and Sun shall also roll out similar offers, allowing users to conveniently boost their existing TNT and Sun promos with 5 minutes of all-net calls for only P5.

The upcoming offer is in line with Smart’s thrust to provide Filipinos with meaningful connections through innovative mobile products and services.

Smart Express Call 50 will provide subscribers with 50 minutes of all-net calls, valid for 3 days, essentially bringing down the cost of calling your family and friends on any network to only P1 per minute.

Catch-up calls

With Smart’s lowest all-net call rates at only P1 per minute, subscribers are set to enjoy greater flexibility, allowing them to keep their loved ones within reach – whether to check on everyone’s activities, confirm an item on the grocery list, or just relay an important concern when the need arises – without having to worry about the cost.

It will also allow users to keep their bond with friends stronger and more personal through frequent catch-up calls and random chats, and set aside work-related worries because they could easily reach out to colleagues for any pressing matter.

Once rolled out, Smart Express Call 50 will also come in very handy such as when there is a need to relay directions to an Uber driver, confirm details with a local Airbnb host, or reach out to top establishments via their mobile numbers.

Watch out for the launch of Smart’s lowest all-net call rates by following Smart’s official social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. (Press Release)

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Couple grows business through power of mobile on Facebook

Marvin Espina was a Filipino overseas foreign worker in Afghanistan on his fourth year when he decided to return to the Philippines to be with family and explore other endeavors….

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Marvin Espina was a Filipino overseas foreign worker in Afghanistan on his fourth year when he decided to return to the Philippines to be with family and explore other endeavors. In 2014, Marvin and wife Khate discovered business solution platform Teespring, which enabled them to kickstart their own custom t-shirt venture via e-commerce.

Marvin and Khate began with selling shirts members of the military and veterans, leveraging Marvin’s background and knowledge of their culture from his time in American bases in Afghanistan. Crucial to Marvin and Khate’s success was investing in Facebook Ads to drive traffic to their different products on the Teespring page.

Facebook ads campaigns

“We used Facebook ads from the start. Khate and I agreed that we would set aside around $200 per month for that. At first, we would spend close to $150 with no return at all. It wasn’t until our 9th and 10th campaign that we were able to start generating sales,” said Marvin.

Espina recommends laying out objectives for each piece of content to be created with the audience clearly in mind. Since there is no fixed formula to capturing an audience, Espina admits to a trial and error approach using Page Post Engagement Ads for testing then running Website Conversion Ads as soon he finds the demographic that convert or engage.

Reaching desired audience

“Facebook gives us the perfect platform to to test and scale a design idea. Khate and I discovered that reaching our desired audience is challenging if we rely only on organic traffic and searches on the platform,” said Marvin.

With the help of Facebook pixel, a tool to help note conversions and get insights, Espina was able to determine that close to 99% of their sales comes from Facebook Ads and customers from the US, Canada and the UK. To date, they have sold more than 17,000 shirts and generated close to $220,000 in profit.

Marvin and Khate now live full time in the Philippines and spend most of their time traveling around the country with their two kids, all thanks to their new found passion for e-commerce.

Easy E-Commerce

Marvin and Khate will be among the success stories and speakers at the Easy E-Commerce for Everyone event this March 24 at SM Seaside Cebu City. At the event, Marvin and Khate will talk about their entrepreneurial journey and share strategies and tips on how to start a simple e-commerce business.

Organized by Facebook and online business solution platforms Payoneer and Teespring, Easy E-Commerce For Everyone is designed to help Filipinos start their e-commerce business. Insightful discussions from Facebook, Payoneer and Teespring will enable aspiring entrepreneurs to understand how to use Facebook as a real marketing tool in setting up or enhancing businesses and keeping the conversation going with customers.

Those who are interested in attending can register at https://ecommerceforeveryone.splashthat.com/.

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PLDT rolls out ‘Fibr City’ program in Toledo City

Leading telecoms and digital services provider PLDT has stepped up its roll-out of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) facilities in strategic urban centers nationwide with Toledo City in Cebu becoming its first ever…

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Leading telecoms and digital services provider PLDT has stepped up its roll-out of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) facilities in strategic urban centers nationwide with Toledo City in Cebu becoming its first ever “Fibr City” project, where families and enterprises can enjoy world-class internet connectivity.

Through a partnership with the Toledo City government, the FTTH roll-out will serve the data connectivity needs of this fast-growing city with its mining industry and burgeoning tourism sector. PLDT is opening a Sales and Service Center on D. Macapagal Highway to serve its growing customer base in the city.

1 Gbps connectivity

“Fitted with the country’s most powerful broadband, Toledo City will now have access to fiber-fast internet speeds of as much as 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps),” PLDT FVP and Head of Home Business Oscar Reyes Jr. said. “This will allow family members to download movies in seconds, play games without any lags, and install security applications inside their homes.”

“PLDT HOME’s decision to pioneer its first Fibr City in Toledo is part of expansion plans in Central Philippines where we are accelerating our fiber roll-out aimed at bringing the strongest connections to more Filipinos,” Reyes noted.

PLDT Fibr City

PLDT FVP and Head of Home Business Oscar Reyes Jr., shown in the photo during the opening of the concept store in SM Seaside City Cebu, said Toledo City “will now have access to fiber-fast internet speeds of as much as 1 Gigabit per second.”

Entertainment, gaming

For plans starting at P1,899 a month, subscribers can access compelling entertainment and gaming content from PLDT Home partners and renowned providers like iflix, Netflix, Fox+, and iWant TV, among others, at minimal subscription fees.

Families will also enjoy added peace of mind with home security devices such as the home monitoring system Fam Cam, the cyber security platform Fam Zone and the multi-functional kiddie gadget Smart Watch.

With a footprint of around 2.8 million homes passed as of end-2016, PLDT is further expanding the reach of its FTTH network by about 80% to 4.4 million homes passed by the end of the year, making available the ultra-fast internet connection to more Filipino families in various parts of the country.

PLDT Fibr City Toledo City

For plans starting at P1,899 a month, subscribers can access compelling entertainment and gaming content from PLDT Home partners and renowned providers like iflix, Netflix, Fox+, and iWant TV, among others, at minimal subscription fees.

Smart homes

To further extend the reach of its fiber-speed internet service, PLDT has also started to deploy hybrid fiber technologies such as Huawei Technologies’ G.fast which can boost data speeds up to 600-700 Mbps over existing copper lines.

PLDT envisions that all of its subscribers will be in “smart homes” by end-2018 enabled by PLDT’s combined FTTH and fiber-fast services. PLDT will thus have an unrivaled robust and cost-efficient platform for offering its growing portfolio of entertainment, “peace of mind,” and other “Smart Home” services.

PLDT has invested P300 billion or $6 billion over the last 10 years to roll out the country’s most extensive transmission and distribution network infrastructure which now has 150,000 kilometers of fiber optic cables that transport the growing data traffic of its fixed line and mobile networks. (Press Release)

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Globe mobile data traffic rises 44% amid continuing shift to digital lifestyle

Globe Telecom’s mobile data traffic grew 44% in 2016 to 361 petabytes (PB) from 252 PB a year earlier as smartphone penetration reached 61% last year, the company said in…

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Globe Telecom’s mobile data traffic grew 44% in 2016 to 361 petabytes (PB) from 252 PB a year earlier as smartphone penetration reached 61% last year, the company said in a press statement. This indicates that more and more Filipinos are now accessing the internet through mobile devices amid continuing shift to a digital lifestyle.

The significant increase in mobile data traffic follows the company’s aggressive network enhancement build in a bid to boost capacities and expand coverage.

“This validates Globe Telecom’s position as the country’s top mobile company and as the network of choice by smartphone users,” said Globe President & CEO Ernest Cu. According to him, the data also reflects the company’s endeavor to continue improving the state of internet in the country.

GROWING USE. The number of Filipinos accessing the internet through mobile devices are steadily growing, now at 38%, up 31% from a year earlier.

Aggressive deployment of LTE sites

“Our efforts are bearing fruit and we expect mobile internet experience to improve further moving forward as we continue with the aggressive deployment of LTE sites in major cities, thereby, providing better indoor signal and larger capacity,” Cu said.

Burgeoning mobile data traffic also corroborates a special report released by social media management platform Hootsuite and a UK-based consultancy firm We are Social that more and more Filipinos are accessing the internet through their mobile devices.

According to the report, total mobile subscription is now at 129.4 million as of January 2017, a 9% increase from a year earlier based on a total country population of 103 million. The report said 60 million or 58% of total population have access to the internet, a 27% increase from a year earlier while 54 million are active mobile social users, up 32% from a year earlier.

Internet via mobile devices

Likewise, it disclosed that the share of web traffic by device indicates that the number of Filipinos accessing the internet thru their mobile devices are steadily growing. The breakdown is as follows: laptops & desktops, 56%, down 13% from a year earlier; mobile phones, 38%, up 31% from a year earlier; and tablet devices, 6%, lower by 7% from a year earlier.

Average internet speed via mobile connections is 13 mbps while average internet speed via fixed connections is at 4.1 Mbps. Based on users’ self-reported activity, 50% of the country’s population use mobile messengers, 57% watch videos on mobile, 47% of play games on mobile, 30% use mobile banking while 39% use mobile map services.

The report also said that Filipinos spend an average of 4 hours and 17 minutes per day on social media sites such as Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. The data as of January 2017 are based on active monthly users from social media companies.

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Fitbit Introduces Alta HR, world’s slimmest fitness wristband with continuous heart rate tracking

Fitbit, the leader in the connected health and fitness market, recently introduced Fitbit Alta HR, a device that comes with new advances in sleep tracking. The fitness tracker gives you…

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Fitbit, the leader in the connected health and fitness market, recently introduced Fitbit Alta HR, a device that comes with new advances in sleep tracking. The fitness tracker gives you actionable insights and guidance in the Fitbit app to make more informed decisions about your health and stay motivated to reach your wellness goals in style.

Fitbit Alta HR is the world’s slimmest wrist-based, continuous heart rate tracking device combining the benefits of PurePulse heart rate technology, automatic exercise recognition, sleep tracking, battery life of up to seven days and smart notifications in a slim, versatile design that is easily customized to fit your style.

Alta HR is already available for presale and is expected to be available in the Philippines by April to May.

Fitbit Alta HR

Fitbit Alta HR is the world’s slimmest wrist-based, continuous heart rate tracking device combining the benefits of PurePulse heart rate technology, automatic exercise recognition, sleep tracking, battery life of up to seven days and smart notifications in a slim, versatile design that is easily customized to fit your style.

“Alta HR and these powerful new sleep features demonstrate our continued focus on evolving our innovative technology to deliver deeper, more actionable insights to help our users improve their health,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit.

“The miniaturization of our PurePulse heart rate technology opens up exciting opportunities for future generations of devices and new form factors. Our advances in sleep will provide millions of users around the globe accessibility to invaluable insights that previously could be obtained only through expensive lab tests,” he said.

Heart Rate and Style in a Sleek Design

Fitbit was able to bring PurePulse, the feature requested most by Fitbit Alta users, to Alta HR by developing a one-of-a-kind chip that reduced the size and number of components needed, achieving a 25% slimmer design than Fitbit Charge 2. The result is a stylish device that offers all-day, continuous heart rate tracking, making it easier for you to make more informed decisions about your health:

  • Better measure calorie burn all day, including during non-step based exercise like yoga and spinning, to help you stay on track toward your health and weight goals by tracking calories in versus burned.
  • See real-time heart zones on your wrist and exercise summaries in the Fitbit app to work out at the right intensity for your health and fitness goals.
  • View resting heart rate on-device and trends in the Fitbit app, and compare it to your activity to see how consistent exercise can improve your heart health over time. A decrease in resting heart rate is a key indicator of cardiovascular health; changes up or down may indicate illness or other issues.

Smart, Insightful, Automatic Sleep Tracking to Help You Sleep Better

Fitbit is also introducing two dynamic sleep tools – Sleep Stages and Sleep Insights – that provide deeper insight into your sleep quality and guidance on how to improve, building on its popular sleep features that have empowered millions of people to track their sleep since 2012. Along with diet and exercise, sleep is a key factor in overall health, but most people have very little insight into it. Good sleep plays a critical role in your health and overall wellbeing, from protecting against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, to boosting neurocognitive functions, mental health and longevity.

Sleep Stages, powered by PurePulse, uses accelerometer data and heart rate variability (the changes in time between beats), plus Fitbit’s proven algorithms to more accurately estimate how long you spend in light, deep and REM sleep stages, as well as time awake, each night:

  • Light Sleep (including sleep stages N1 and N2) occurs throughout the night and is important for memory, learning and letting your body recover from the day; for most people that’s 50%-60% of your night.
  • Deep Sleep (sleep stage N3) promotes a healthy immune system and muscle growth and repair; for most people that’s 10%-25% of your night (depending on your age).
  • REM Sleep is when most dreaming occurs and is important for mental recovery and memory formation; for most people that’s 20%-25% of your night. Most REM sleep comes at the end of the night, and is often the stage to be cut short when your sleep duration decreases.
  • Awake periods (between 10-30 times) are a normal part of your sleep cycle each night.

Everyone’s sleep cycle is different, but by better knowing your sleep quality and patterns, and realizing the impact they have on your day, you can make lifestyle changes that can help improve your sleep over time – such as diet, exercise, winding down before bed and keeping a consistent sleep schedule. For example, if you wake up feeling exhausted each morning, despite seemingly getting enough sleep, you may not be getting sufficient deep sleep.

Tracking sleep patterns could also help identify variations that can be indicative of other issues. For example, it has been shown that irregularities in sleep patterns could be a sign of a sleep condition that should be discussed with a doctor.

Alta HR

SmartTrack automatic exercise tracking records activities like walking, running, cycling, elliptical, sports and aerobic workouts in the Fitbit app, giving you credit toward your weekly exercise goals.

Scientific approach

“From helping maintain a healthy immune system, to preserving your cognitive functions and managing a healthy weight, your sleep – or lack of – plays a critical role,” said Dr. Allison Siebern, Stanford University and Fitbit Advisory Panel Sleep Expert.

“Fitbit’s new sleep features use a scientific-based approach to show your sleep patterns over time, and provide you with validated, actionable guidance to help you make changes in your daily routine to achieve greater quality sleep – and in turn improve your overall health. Given the comfort and accessibility of this product, it’s one of the most valuable and useful sleep tracking solutions available to consumers outside of a sleep lab,” Dr. Siebern said.

Developed with Fitbit’s panel of sleep experts over the last two years, Sleep Stages makes information previously only accessible through a sleep lab accessible to millions of consumers, while Sleep Insights offers personalized guidance to help improve your sleep.

Alta HR

Stay Motivated, On Track and Connected

In addition to the advanced health and fitness tracking experience PurePulse brings to Alta HR, popular features and notifications keep you connected and motivated to reach your goals:

  • All day, automatic tracking of your most important stats (heart rate, steps, distance, calorie burn, active minutes) day and night, powered by battery life of up to seven days.
  • SmartTrack automatic exercise tracking records activities like walking, running, cycling, elliptical, sports and aerobic workouts in the Fitbit app, giving you credit toward your weekly exercise goals.
  • Reminders to Move help you stay active throughout the day, and reducing sedentary time can play a significant role in the prevention of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
  • Call, text and calendar notifications keep you connected so you can focus on your day.
  • Connect with one of the largest social fitness networks in the world through the new Community tab in the Fitbit app to find support and inspiration on your path to better health and fitness.

“For me, a big part of staying healthy and active is understanding how the things I do every day – like hiking with my dogs, hitting a dance class and how well I sleep – impact my overall health and fitness goals,” said Julianne Hough, Fitbit Ambassador, actress and dancer. “I love that Alta HR is so stylish, I can wear it with any outfit no matter what I’m doing so I stay motivated and on track.”

Alta HR

Reflect Your Personal Style

Whether you’re going to a workout or a night out, the slim design and distinctive Alta HR tracker will give you the information you need while transforming to fit your look with a variety of accessories that fit Alta and Alta HR devices.

  • Classic trackers with black, blue gray, fuchsia or coral classic fitness wristbands and matching aluminum buckle.
  • Special Edition trackers in soft pink classic band with 22k rose gold plated tracker and black classic band with matte gunmetal tracker.
  • Luxe leather collection in brown, indigo and lavender with matching buckle.
  • Luxe stainless steel bracelet that can stack with your other jewelry.
  • Designer collections from PUBLIC SCHOOL, Simply Vera Vera Wang and soon from Tory Burch.

Pricing and availability

Alta HR will be available in the Philippines for P8,690.00 from April in Digital Walker, Beyond the Box, select Toby’s stores, iBOOK, iCENTER, Mobile1, Globe, Gadgets in Style, Hivemind, Lazada, Zalora, Timeline, The Inbox Store, iLiberty and Rnnr stores.

  • Special Edition Alta HR, P9,990.00.
  • Classic fitness bands, P1,448.00; Luxe Leather bands, P3,380.00; and Luxe Metal Bracelet, P4,950.00. (Press Release)
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LTE, 3G speeds significantly up in Metro Cebu

The nationwide network modernization program of Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), the mobile unit of PLDT, Inc., is in full swing and recent field tests in Metro Cebu are showing impressive…

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The nationwide network modernization program of Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), the mobile unit of PLDT, Inc., is in full swing and recent field tests in Metro Cebu are showing impressive LTE and 3G speeds in the Visayas region’s premier urban hub.

Internal field tests conducted in key areas in and around Metro Cebu have shown that download speeds on Smart’s LTE service have jumped at least 146% to 19.7 Mbps and have reached up to 52 Mbps in certain areas like Cordova, while upload speeds have also risen by 134% to 14.3 Mbps.

Download speeds on Smart’s 3G service, on the other hand, are also up 275% to 6 Mbps, while upload speeds likewise improved 45% to 1.6 Mbps.

LTE speeds in Metro Cebu

LTE speeds exceeding 20 Mbps have been recorded in both indoor and outdoor areas around Metro Cebu.

LTE speeds of more than 24 Mbps were recorded in SM Seaside Mountain Wing and Banilad Road in Cebu City, while speeds in excess of 37 Mbps were reached in Jollibee Minglanilla.

LTE speeds above 21 Mbps were also posted in tourist-favorite Lantaw Native Restaurant in Mactan and at the Mactan International Airport, while LTE reached speeds of 47 Mbps in Brgy. Tingub in Mandaue City.

Magellan’s Cross. Speeds exceeding 20 Mbps were recorded at Magellan’s Cross using LTE-capable handsets.

Carrier aggregation, LTE-Advanced

On the other hand, speeds in excess of 90 Mbps have also been achieved in and around the Minglanilla Sports Complex, using carrier aggregation (CA) and LTE-Advanced (LTE-A)-capable handsets.

Carrier aggregation refers to the capability of LTE-A to combine two or more radio frequency bands in order to deliver bigger bandwidth and much faster data speeds to mobile users.

“We are accelerating the rollout of LTE because it provides an immediate significant boost to the speed, quality and reliability of our service. Moreover, it lays the foundation for the rollout of LTE-A with CA and puts us in a position to further improve internet service as more handsets capable of CA become available in the market,” said Joachim Horn, chief technology and information advisor for PLDT and Smart.

Just initial results

“These are just initial results, and we are already nearing the midpoint of our implementation in Metro Cebu,” Horn added.

“We are asking for people’s patience and understanding as we make changes in our network facilities. These activities are being done during the most inactive hours of the day, and we are putting systems in place to minimize the impact on our subscribers. In the end, our commitment to all our subscribers is that they will enjoy progressively better mobile data services in the next few months, particularly for those using LTE devices,” said Horn.

These improvements were brought about by an increase in 3G and LTE base stations in Metro Cebu, which are up by 16% and 108%, respectively. As a result, data volume traffic on 3G and LTE have also increased, according to network monitoring data.

Fast, reliable network

“In upgrading mobile and data services in Metro Cebu, we are helping improve the quality of life in one of the country’s biggest provinces, where millions work and play,” said Horn.

Metro Cebu is home to more than 2.8 million Filipinos, while passenger arrivals at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport hit nearly 9 million last year. It is also the country’s largest outsourcing destination outside of Metro Manila.

“This progress in Metro Cebu is just a preview of what Smart will be rolling out to the rest of the island and the rest of the country—a fast and reliable mobile data network for all Smart subscribers,” Horn added.

Nationwide expansion program

This is part of Smart’s nationwide network expansion and overhaul program to improve both coverage and quality of service, particularly its LTE service. Earlier, Smart already completed its network overhaul program in Boracay and Metro Davao, where users have already reported improved quality of LTE services.

A major leg of this network expansion is also currently underway in and around Metro Manila, where it is likewise expected to significantly boost Smart’s voice, SMS, and mobile data services, specially its indoor LTE coverage.

The fruits of the Metro Manila rollout can now be felt in nearby Rizal, where Smart’s average LTE download speeds jumped 455% to 23.3 Mbps, and average 3G download speeds rose by 37% to 3.7 Mbps, on the back of significant increases in the number of LTE and 3G base stations in the province.

Redemptorist Church. LTE-capable handsets were also able to post download speeds as high as 36 Mbps outside Redemptorist Church.

Acceleration of LTE deployment

Network improvement activities in Metro Cebu include re-equipping cell sites to use low-frequency bands such as 700 MHz, 850 MHz, and 900 MHz for its LTE and 3G services. These frequency bands travel farther than high-frequency bands thus providing mobile data services better coverage, including indoors.

Smart’s network rollout took a big bulk of parent company PLDT’s ramped-up capital expenditure program of $1 billion for 2016, with an additional $100 million allocated to utilize the new frequencies freed up with the acquisition of San Miguel Corporation’s telco assets.

In the three-year network roll-out plan that PLDT submitted to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) last July, Smart said it is focused on accelerating its LTE deployment, to make it progressively available to users in 1,551 cities and municipalities across the country by end-2018.

LTE, an all-IP network, delivers superior experience for users, particularly for data. It can also be quickly upgraded to LTE-A, which can provide even faster speeds and greater capacity to subscribers who are using LTE SIMs on LTE-capable handsets.

Bandwidth-heavy services

Smart began rolling out its LTE-A service in April 2016 in preparation for the rise of bandwidth-heavy services such as video streaming and gaming. Initially rolled out in Boracay, Smart’s LTE-A service delivers peak speeds of more than 100 Mbps to users with LTE-A capable smartphones.

“The Smart network modernization program is a key part of the PLDT Group’s massive nationwide effort to roll out superior and reliable fixed and mobile networks for the delivery of a wide range of content and gigabit digital solutions. Through the group’s superior telecommunication networks, PLDT and Smart will deliver impressive customer experience,” said Atty. Ray C. Espinosa, Chief Corporate Services Officer at PLDT and Smart. (Press Release)

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Globe and Mabuhay Miles give free SIMs to PAL passengers

The International Business Group of Globe Telecom partnered with Mabuhay Miles to make it easier for balikbayans, OFWs, and travelers to get in touch with their loved ones when they…

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The International Business Group of Globe Telecom partnered with Mabuhay Miles to make it easier for balikbayans, OFWs, and travelers to get in touch with their loved ones when they reach the Philippines via free Traveler SIM cards distributed to passengers on PAL’s international flights to Manila.

“We continuously strive to serve the needs of our dear OFWs, balikbayans and tourists. Through the partnership with Mabuhay Miles, we have created an avenue where our customers are able to enjoy their homecoming by means of instant communication as soon as they land,” said Nikko Acosta, Senior Vice President of the International Business Group of Globe Telecom.

Unlimited calls

Since December 14, 2016, the Traveler SIM has been distributed to passengers on PAL international flights for free. As a bonus, customers can avail themselves of unlimited calls to Globe and TM mobiles, 20 all-net SMS and 15MB mobile data valid for one day.

“Through this partnership with Globe, we are very happy to give our Mabuhay Miles customers a more enriching in-flight experience by making them feel we are making their trip to the Philippines more rewarding,” said Kevin Hartigan-Go, PAL VP for Ancillary Business Unit. “As of today, we have supplied hundreds of thousands of PAL passengers with free SIM cards and we cannot wait to give to more!” Hartigan-Go added.

Mabuhay Miles will give 500 bonus miles when Traveler SIM customers register or update their membership information. (Press Release)

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High school team from Bogo City to compete in Singapore contest of fuel-efficient vehicles

The 13-member Team Masiyentista of the City of Bogo Science and Arts Academy (CBSAA) will be competing in the Shell Eco-Marathon (SEM) Asia 2017 this March in Singapore. Team Masiyentista…

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The 13-member Team Masiyentista of the City of Bogo Science and Arts Academy (CBSAA) will be competing in the Shell Eco-Marathon (SEM) Asia 2017 this March in Singapore.

Team Masiyentista will be competing against 100 teams in Singapore from March 16-19, to push the boundaries of energy efficiency. It is one of 14 teams to represent the Philippines in the international event and the only team to represent the whole Visayas region.

Bogo Science and Arts Academy

LABYUG. Team Masiyentista will participate in the Prototype-Internal Combustion Engine category with this gasoline-run vehicle.

The Shell Eco-Marathon is an annual competition sponsored by Shell that challenges student teams to design, build, test and drive the most fuel-efficient vehicles. It is held around the world with events in Europe, the Americas and Asia with the Asian leg being held in Singapore this year.

Team Masiyentista will participate in the Prototype-Internal Combustion Engine category with a gasoline-run vehicle, affectionately called “Labyug,” named after a former local mode of transportation. It has a carbon fiber exterior and is shaped like a raindrop to allow it to cut through the air as efficiently as possible.

The Team is confident that Labyug will finish with a record fuel efficiency of not below 200 km/l.

Bogo Science and Arts Academy

The Team competed last year in the SEM Asia 2016 in Manila where they won 5th Place in the Best University Launch despite being the only secondary school participating in that event as other teams are composed of engineering students, owing to the technical background of conceptualizing and building the vehicles.

The students study at CBSAA, a public school with extensive support from the local government.

Chastren Soon, faculty adviser, said that their participation in SEM Asia 2017 marks a milestone for CBSAA in “molding innovative leaders and globally competitive students, creating a bridge for students to transcend a world of mere blueprints to actual application.”

Bogo City Mayor Carlo Martinez said “SEM Asia 2017 is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the ingenuity, knowledge and skills of our young Bogohanons on the global stage.” (Bogo City PIO)

Bogo Science and Arts Academy

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Tech adapts to people: key trend in Accenture technology trend study

Artificial intelligence (AI), technology design that adapts to people, integration with external systems, on-demand work platforms and leadership in uncharted areas of the industry are the key technology for the…

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Artificial intelligence (AI), technology design that adapts to people, integration with external systems, on-demand work platforms and leadership in uncharted areas of the industry are the key technology for the next three years, according to Accenture.

“Technology advancement and innovation continue to advance and it’s accelerating very quickly. However, there’s a little bit of differentiation. Instead of in the past when people were adapting to technology, what we’re seeing is that technology is being shaped by people to adapt to us, the people,” said JP Palpallatoc, Accenture Digital Lead in the Philippines.

Palpallatoc briefed reporters in Manila and, via teleconference, in Cebu on the Accenture Technology Vision 2017 on Wednesday.

Accenture said in a press statement that the theme of this year’s report is a “call to action for business and technology leaders to actively design and direct technology to augment and amplify human capabilities.”

Accenture Technology Trends

TECHNOLOGY TRENDS. JP Palpallatoc, Accenture Digital Lead in the Philippines, briefs reporters in Manila and Cebu on the Accenture Technology Vision 2017, which details trends for the next few years.

Global survey of IT executives

The report was based on a survey of 5,400 business and information technology executives from 31 countries across 16 industries. It is meant to identify “priority technology investments over the next few years.”

The report, Palpallatoc said, identified the following key trends:

1) AI is the new UI. AI “is coming of age” in making human interactions with technology “simple and smart.”

AI is increasingly becoming the new user interface (UI) for people interacting with digital systems. Palpallatoc cited the various roles of AI such as curator to suggest options based on user behavior like music recommendations by Spotify; advisor that learns from data and gives suggested course of action like LettuceBot that identifies whether a sprout is a lettuce or weed; and orchestrator that learns from user actions and connects with multiple channels such as what Amazon Alexa does in connecting to various services and devices.

Palpallatoc also said that increasingly, AI will serve as a company’s digital spokesperson, “moving beyond a back-end tool and taking on more sophisticated roles within technology interfaces.”

“Thanks to its powerful simplicity, customers may soon spend more time engaged with a company’s AI than talking to their people,” the report said.

2) Ecosystems as “macrocosms.” Companies are integrating their systems with other platforms.

Palpallatoc cited as example companies’ use of cloud services. He said “companies are realizing that they have to play nice and work with others.”

He also cited as example the investment by Whole Foods on an online shopping platform as a way to access a new digital ecosystem. Accenture said 27 percent of executives “reported that digital ecosystems are transforming the way their organizations deliver value.”

Accenture Technology Trends

KEY TRENDS. The key trends identified in the Accenture global survey of 5,400 business and information technology executives from 31 countries across 16 industries.

3) Workforce marketplace. Increasingly, companies are tapping on-demand work marketplaces to augment its capabilities. Palpallatoc said companies now realize that to remain competitive, the need to tap external talent.

He cited as example the experience of Procter and Gamble, which found success in tapping external talent. He said the result was “very positive” and projects were done faster and better.

“Leading companies are dissolving traditional hierarchies and replacing them with talent marketplaces, which in turn is driving the most profound economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution.”

The report said 85% of executives they surveyed planned to increase use of independent freelance workers over the next year.

4) Design for humans. Rather than people having to change in dealing with technology, companies now realize that tech has to adapt to the needs of people.

Palpallatoc cited as example the case of financial company Betterment, which hides a stock portfolio’s daily performance in its dashboard to shield investors from “short-sighted actions.”

The report said 80% of executives agreed that business “need to understand not only where people are today, but also where they want to be – and shape technology to act as their guide to realize desired outcomes.”

5) The Uncharted. To succeed, businesses must “delve into uncharted territory instead of focusing solely on introducing new products and services,” the report said.

“They should think bigger – seize opportunities to establish rules and standards for entirely new industries,” it added.

Accenture said 74% of the executives in their survey reported that their business is “entering entirely new digital industries that have yet to be defined.”

Biggest impact on Philippines

When asked which of the trends will have the biggest impact on the Philippines, Palpallatoc identified AI, saying he sees a lot of opportunity in it for the country.

But, he said, there are also risks of people losing jobs to AI. Still, the country’s roadmap on business and technology sees a “net growth.”

“There is opportunity,” Palpallatoc said, “The challenge for us is that we need to move the lower-level skilled people up the value chain. They should be able to learn other skills as well: be able to do the mid-level complexity or higher level complexity like doing analytics and other digital skills.”

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USJ-R team wins grand prize in nationwide technology contest

A project by a team from the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) that seeks to connect people who need blood with potential donors via a mobile app won the grand…

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A project by a team from the University of San Jose-Recoletos (USJ-R) that seeks to connect people who need blood with potential donors via a mobile app won the grand prize in the 13th SWEEP Innovation and Excellence Awards.

The team that built BloodSeeker won P300,000 during the national awarding at the Mind Museum in Taguig City last Thursday, February 9. The school also won half the amount in grants.

“We are overwhelmed by the win,” USJ-R College of Information, Computer and Communications Technology dean Greg Gabison said in an interview after the awarding.

USJ-R BloodSeeker Smart SWEEP

Members of the BloodSeeker team from USJ-R pitch their idea to judges of the 13th SWEEP Innovation and Excellence Awards.

BloodSeeker app, business model

BloodSeeker was built by USJ-R students Kirster Kyle Quinio, Alyzza Villahermosa, Harniel Salmeron and Sept Lozada. It seeks to simplify the process of donating blood by matching potential donors with those who need blood through an app and website. The team spent weeks building the product, validating its market demand, and studying a potential business model to make it sustainable.

BloodSeeker members told judges during their pitch that they already talked to potential partners like the Philippine Red Cross and the Department of Health – Central Visayas. They reported good feedback from initial engagements with potential partners and users.

Gabison said the mentorship provided by SWEEP or the Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program was a big help to their students. It turned what he said was a “good concept” into a better idea and working prototype.

Mentoring process

“Going through a mentoring process is not common in universities. You’re actually being mentored by business leaders, technology gurus,” Gabison said. With the Smart SWEEP program, “it’s not just the students who get to be mentored but also faculty members. And they get so much confidence out of it.”

Providing mentorship on market potential and the business aspects of a product is a key component of a program that started purely as a way to boost engineering education.

“It just can’t be technology. You have to have a business model. You have to do market testing and validation. We’re helping these students complete the process that anyone who goes through this has to do anyway,” said SMART Public Affairs Group Head Mon Isberto.

Three other projects from USJ-R made it to the 10 finalists – the most number from one school. These are Ethelon, which matches those who want to volunteer for charity events with foundations; Hitch: a system that allows people to share rides in their daily commutes for a fee; and Tourista: an app that highlights tour packages of travel companies.

SMART SWEEP BloodSeeker

GRAND PRIZE. USJ-R CICCT Dean Greg Gabison (3rd from left) and the students who built BloodSeeker get their award for winning the grand prize in the 13th SWEEP Innovation and Excellence Awards from SMART Public Affairs Group head Mon Isberto (left) and PLDT-SMART Chief Technology Information Advisor Joachin Jorn (right).

Mobile innovations

The projects were chosen from a field of 230 entries submitted by student teams from 52 schools all over the country.

The 13th SWEEP Awards carried the theme “Changing Lives Through Mobile and Digital Innovations.”

The entries were whittled down to 20 teams who were asked to build prototypes and then flown to Manila for face-to-face interviews with judges. The judges then picked the 10 finalists who immediately underwent a boot camp, said Smart Education Program Head Stephanie Orlino.

They were paired with startup founders from the IdeaSpace Foundation who provided mentoring.

“We found this to be the best approach,” Orlino said, “since startups are the closest to their situation” as a business and project.

Improvements in entries, presentation

Orlino said there has been a marked improvement in the quality of the entries and how the students pitched them.

“Their presentation skills and pitching have leveled up. They now have very sophisticated and elegant applications and are able to demonstrate it and show that they have potential users. They talk about business. It’s already in their consciousness – how you are going to earn.”

Placing second during this year’s search is BuyONG or Buy Online-N-Go, a system that allows people to buy groceries online and then pick them up by drive-through. BuyONG was built by a team from a Batangas State University, a frequent SWEEP winner.

At third place was Traffix by a team from Ateneo de Manila University. It’s a system that uses algorithms to show an optimal route for vehicles that need to go to multiple destinations. Unlike Waze and Google Maps, the team told judges, their project offers better routes for multiple points.

USJR Smart SWEEP

4 IN THE FINALS. The University of San Jose-Recoletos dominated this year’s SWEEP Innovation and Excellence Awards finals with four entries making it to the finals. Here the team celebrates after BloodSeeker was named grand prize winner.

Other SMART Sweep finalists

AgriLife, an application that connects farmers who need money during cropping season with potential investors willing to fund them via cooperatives, also made it to the top 10. The app, according to the students from Wesleyan University – Philippines, will help farmers avoid getting into debt. The team won a special award from Ericsson.

Other projects that also made it to the top 10 include GreenEye from Batangas State University, a camera system that can be mounted on drones that can check the health of a plantation; Kariton from the Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology, a system that simplifies ordering of organic products; and SALAS of Ateneo de Zamboanga University, a system for looking for and reserving function rooms.

The SWEEP Awards started in 2004. SWEEP is a collaboration between the company and various schools meant to raise the standard of engineering and IT education in the country. Because of SWEEP, Smart was cited last year by international magazine Fortune as one of 50 companies that have “changed the world.”

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Have app, will order turkey rice

I had my first taste of Taiwanese milk tea at a shop in a train station on our way to the remote township of Alishan. My wife and I headed…

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I had my first taste of Taiwanese milk tea at a shop in a train station on our way to the remote township of Alishan. My wife and I headed straight to the station from the Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to catch the train to Chiayi in time for the last bus to Alishan.

We had time for snacks since the train was still several minutes away and proceeded to check out the food stalls at the station. There were no English signs. Unlike other destinations, English isn’t as widely used in Taiwan, whether written or spoken.

It was then that we used the Google Translate app that we downloaded prior to our trip.

The app translates in real-time and via phone camera text such as those you find in billboards, menus, and other documents. Real-time translation works in several languages, including Chinese. Apart from real-time translation, you can also choose to take a photo of the sign or document and highlight the text you want translated.

Google Translate app

REAL-TIME TRANSLATION. Reading instructions at a bus terminal using the Google Translate app.

Real-time translation

We used it to understand the signs on the different shops in that train station in Taipei. We confirmed that what looked to be pesto bread indeed was. We also used it to choose from the different varieties of milk tea sold in one shop of the station that was manned by a young shopkeeper who barely knew a word in English. In real time, Google Translate unmasked the Chinese characters in the menu of teas: honey plum, pearl pudding, vermicelli.

We then typed “less sugar” in the app and flashed its automated Chinese translation to the shopkeeper. He nodded in understanding and said “3?” We were puzzled at first until we realized they had a numeric scale for the sweetness of drinks.

Machine translation via web interfaces isn’t new. Among the first was the now defunct Babel fish by AltaVista, which is also now defunct. The initial attempts at automated machine translation were inaccurate and even outright funny. There’s a sign for what is apparently a toilet for persons with disabilities with an English translation of “special for deformed.”

But what really stuck on my mind was a restaurant banner that I found in Hong Kong that listed its menu. Below a photo of a delicious-looking chicken dish was the phrase “saliva chicken.” I wasn’t using Google Translate then so I wasn’t able to confirm the translation at that time. I had half a mind to go local and go inside to try it. I chickened out. I later learned that the closer translation should have been “mouth-watering chicken,” a famous Sichuan dish.

Google Translate

MILK TEA. There were only a few words in English in the food stalls in the train station on our way to Chiayi City in Taiwan.

Google Translate on mobile

In our Taiwan trip, Google Translate was of great help fathoming the signs all around us. We used it to check and double check bus schedules and directions. It wasn’t totally accurate, often you have to figure out the bits and pieces of words and phrases, but it was good enough to get by.

Dr. Raymund Bontol used it in a recent family trip to Japan and found it indispensable. He also uses it for online shopping in sites without English translations. And in an ultimate vote of confidence, Bontol also uses it to communicate with Korean patients.

Google Translate

REAL TIME. The app deciphered in real time our milk tea options.

What makes Google Translate very useful is that it’s mobile. Its Android and iOS apps aren’t pared down version of the website service – these are actually more powerful iterations with its mobility and capability to use the camera. If you download the available language packs, translations are faster and can be done even without an internet connection.

When we were in Chiayi waiting for the train back to Taipei, we had some time for lunch. We decided to look for a specialty of the region: turkey rice. Google Maps took us in a circuitous route to nowhere and, in exasperation, we finally stopped at a non-descript eatery near the station. There was a huge turkey in front of the counter. As with many Chinese restaurants abroad, you order by filling up a slip. By scanning the slip and then double-checking by asking the person at the counter, we managed to get our bowls of turkey rice.

Peek into the future

While useful right now, Google Translate offers a peek at a future of instant machine translation. Google says the app can do spoken translation. I haven’t tried it yet.

It would have been useful in Ximending when I ordered for breakfast a wrap of vegetables and some meat from a street stall. The woman preparing the dish asked me a question in rapid Chinese. The only word I caught was “chicken.”

“Yes, chicken,” I told her.

“Ah, chicken,” she said, “kruk kuk kuk kuk kuk.”

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Smart’s Batibot app nominated for global award

The Batibot mobile application co-developed by Smart Communications has been shortlisted for the Best Mobile Innovation for Education or Learning citation of the prestigious Global Mobile Awards. The digital version…

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The Batibot mobile application co-developed by Smart Communications has been shortlisted for the Best Mobile Innovation for Education or Learning citation of the prestigious Global Mobile Awards.

The digital version of the beloved Filipino children’s show is the first app in the Filipino language that is aligned with the kindergarten curriculum of the Department of Education. It was designed to develop literacy among children aged 2 to 6 through fun games and interactive features. The app can be downloaded for free on Android devices.

Smart Batibot app

Teachers find the Batibot a useful classroom tool, as it is aligned with DepEd’s kindergarten curriculum.

Driving innovation

The Global Mobile Awards is organized by the GSMA, an international association of mobile operators, to recognize companies and individuals that are driving innovation in the rapidly evolving mobile industry. Entries are judged by world-leading independent experts, analysts, journalists, and academics. Winners will be named in a series of awarding ceremonies to be held in Barcelona, Spain in February.

Developed in collaboration with the Community of Learners Foundation and OrangeFix, the Batibot app features games like “Alin ang Naiba,” where children are presented with a group of objects and are asked to identify the item that does not belong to the group.

Kids can also practice tracing letters on their device, sing along to Batibot songs via the app’s videoke feature, and watch stories in Filipino.

Preloaded

The app also teaches other basic concepts like matching, sorting, shapes, colors, and numbers.

The Batibot app is preloaded in tablets donated by Smart to public schools all over the country, as part of digital learning packages called the Smart TechnoCart and School-in-a-Bag. These are among Smart’s efforts to use technology to develop different sectors in society.

Since its launch in August 2015, the Batibot app has had close to 400,000 installations.

Smart Batibot

Kindergarten students can use the Batibot app to learn basic concepts like the alphabet.

Feedback from teachers, parents, and an independent evaluator showed that the app improved students’ academic performance, increased their interest in learning, and decreased absenteeism.

The Batibot app also lessens the need for teachers to tap into their personal funds to create audio-visual aids for their classes.

For more information on Smart’s initiatives to use technology to enhance learning, please visit www.smart.com.ph/learnsmart. (Press release)

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Cebu team builds disaster management tool for Africa

Countries in the Horn of Africa now have a mobile app that allows disaster managers to send out alerts and collect field reports from volunteers. The app is called REACT…

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Countries in the Horn of Africa now have a mobile app that allows disaster managers to send out alerts and collect field reports from volunteers. The app is called REACT HOA or Regional Early Warning Action and Communication Tool Horn of Africa.

It was built in 30 days by a startup from Cebu.

“People said it was impossible to do it in 30 days. We were building on three platforms: Web, iOS, and Android. But we already had a framework that made the impossible timeline possible,” said Tudlo Innovation Solutions Managing Director Kristoffer Vince Loremia.

Vice Loremia

DISASTER MANAGEMENT APP. Vince Loremia shows REACT HOA, the disaster management app his Cebu startup built for countries in the Horn of Africa.

Disaster management using tech

That framework is Tudlo, a disaster education, reporting, and management app that Loremia’s team pitched for a 2012 hackathon for social good held by the DevNet team of Smart Communications at the telco’s regional office in Mabolo, Cebu City. Loremia’s team pitched Tudlo as an app to teach people how to prepare for disasters, guide them during one, and point to safe evacuation places. They used the Bisaya word tudlo because of its multiple meanings: to teach, guide and point.

Loremia spent a month in Kenya to lead his team in building REACT HOA for implementation in member-countries of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Climate Prediction and Applications Center (ICPAC). These countries are Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

With the app, disaster managers from these countries are now able to send out alerts to users of the app and receive reports from them. The apps also contain safety guides specific to the region. Information on the guides were provided by the Red Cross in Africa.

Collaboration

Loremia said they deployed the app in collaboration with Smart Communications, the Philippine embassy in Nairobi, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the Red Cross. The app is specific to Africa and is meant to deal with common problems in the region like drought, violence, terrorism, and outbreaks like Ebola.

It is based on the Batingaw app that the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management is using in the Philippines. A custom version of the app, Pindot, was deployed in Albay to help in the province’s disaster management and response.

Loremia said the app was introduced in a hackathon in Africa a few weeks back and will be rolled out in the region through a series of soft launches. A grand launch will be held later next year with representatives from the different government ministries of the region.

Tudlo journey

Loremia said his team of five based in Cebu will continue working on and enhancing the app, which the UNDP wants to implement in all 54 countries of Africa. From there, they are looking into making it global by bringing it to places like Latin America.

“We never thought this would be global. We never even thought this would be nationwide. We thought this would just be a Cebu-based application,” Loremia said in an interview.

After winning the social good hackathon in 2012, Tudlo went on to the Ideaspace startup competition in 2013. It was among the 20 finalists but did not make it to the top 10 that were to receive P500,000 in investments from the innovation foundation run by the Manny V. Pangilinan group of companies.

Foundation technology

They got a needed boost, however, when Smart engaged them to build a disaster app for Albay. That app is called Pindot for Provincial Information Network on Disaster Occurrences and Threats.

“Dreams do come true. This is because we took action and executed well on what we believed in,” Loremia said.

Right now, the company earns its revenues through development work payments by its partners and sponsors. But, he said, they are in talks with companies here in the Philippines and in Africa for recurring revenues to support the different apps.

Loremia said Tudlo is the foundation technology for apps and services that involve reporting and GPS mapping.

Challenging times

He said there were several challenging times when they thought about going into development work as a business. But always, something happened to push them forward with Tudlo and its iterations.

“We never thought we could make money. If the product is really useful and with social impact, the business will follow,” he said.

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