PLDT, Metro Pacific setting up incubation, angel investment facility

The Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and the Metro Pacific Investments Corp. are currently setting up a program that aims to support technological entrepreneurship in the country, officials said last week.

“If you look at the companies in the group, we are all heavy users and developers of technology. We all benefit from technology,” said Smart and PLDT public affairs head Ramon Isberto.

Isberto said the program is aimed at developing “technopreneurship” and was decided in a management conference a month ago. The program is “one of the projects with very high-level backing,” said Isberto.

He said companies in the group are setting up a fund for the “angel investor” component of the project.

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Innovation

It is always refreshing and inspiring to cover the Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program (Sweep) Innovation and Excellence Awards. The annual contest pits engineering schools throughout the country in a contest on the use of mobile technology to solve community problems.

Anyone in despair at the state of education in the country need only to spend an afternoon among these kids to rekindle hope. These kids are awesome hackers (in the original meaning of the word).

This year’s winner is an all-women team from the Mapua Institute of Technology. Their project was a device that rendered text messages into Braille and a cane that can detect obstructions and then warn its user.

The team of Janiena Roxanne Dirain, Kristine Emy Matabang and Girly Perando with mentor Ayra Panganiban got P500,000 for the win. Their school got P500,000 in grants.

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Mapua student team wins Sweep Innovation and Excellence Award with Braille cellphone, obstacle detector

SEEING a blind masseuse crouching silently on a corner with a cellphone held to her head gave three graduating Mapua Institute of Technology engineering students the idea for an undergraduate project and thesis.

“I asked the receptionist what she was doing and she said the masseuse received a text message and was listening to it,” student team leader Janiena Roxanne Dirain said in Filipino. “The problem was she had to listen to the message three to four times because she couldn’t understand it since the program had an American accent and the message was in Filipino.”

Dirain, Girly Perando and Kristine Emy Matabang exchanged looks and decided right there and then on the subject of their undergraduate project under adviser Ayra Panganiban.

WINNING PROJECT. Members of the Mapua Institute of Technology team that created a Braille cellphone and an obstacle detector talk to Smart president and chief executive officer Napoleon Nazareno (left) and public affairs head Ramon Isberto at their booth during the Sweep Innovation and Excellence Awards. The Mapua team won the nationwide contest of engineering projects held last Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia. CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE. (SMART PUBLIC AFFAIRS PHOTO)

WINNING PROJECT. Members of the Mapua Institute of Technology team that created a Braille cellphone and an obstacle detector talk to Smart president and chief executive officer Napoleon Nazareno (left) and public affairs head Ramon Isberto at their booth during the Sweep Innovation and Excellence Awards. The Mapua team won the nationwide contest of engineering projects held last Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia. CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE. (SMART PUBLIC AFFAIRS PHOTO)

The three decided to find a way to render text messages into Braille and devised a lunchbox-sized gadget comprising of a microcontroller and a GSM module. The gadget renders text messages into Braille letter by letter, with the device popping up dots to make up the letters.

The project, “Wearable Obstacle Detection System and Braille Cellphone for the Blind,” won P500,000 for three students and another P500,000 in grants for the school during the Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program (Sweep) Innovation and Excellence Awards Wednesday at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

Mass production

Perando said they added an obstacle detection system, set up in a cane, to provide more assistance to the blind. The system detects obstructions of up to five meters away and alerts the blind user via vibrations. The alert becomes more frequent the closer the obstructions become.

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Is this the end of SMS?

Apple announced last week that the next version of its operating system (OS) will incorporate features first introduced in the iPhone and iPad “re-imagined for the Mac.”

OSX Mountain Lion, which is scheduled for release later this year, will have Notification Center, iCloud integration, Reminders, Notes, Game Center and Messages – features that are currently on its mobile phones and tablets.

“We see that people are in love with a lot of the apps and functionality here,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook told the Wall Street Journal in an interview, pointing at his iPhone. “So, anywhere where it makes sense, we are going to move that over to Mac.”

One of the things to look forward to in the new OS is the integration of Reminders and its working with the cloud. Items you add in Reminders in OS X will be added to your Reminders in your iPhone or iPad. This would be a great way to centralize to-do lists.

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