Smart LTE Advanced demo

Smart network ready for LTE Advanced: Rolando Peña

DAVAO CITY-After hitting LTE Advanced download speeds in excess of 200 megabits per second (Mbps) during tests in Manila, Smart Communications Inc. held another test in Davao City last Saturday.

PLDT and Smart Technology head Rolando Peña said he scheduled the test in Davao to show that the company’s network is able to deliver LTE Advanced throughout the country.

“I want to be able to tell my board of directors that I have personally tested the network up to Davao and that we are able to deliver the next generation LTE on a nationwide basis. To me Davao is the biggest challenge because it traverses several land-sea-land-sea type of combination,” Peña said during the test at the PLDT office in this city.

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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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Edmon Joson, Smart Communications Inc. product development manager, demonstrates features of the Netphone 701 during a press conference in Cebu. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Smartphones, Smart’s Netphone

In the US, 89 percent of those with smartphones use it throughout the day, according to a study published last April by Google. The study, based on interviews of 5,013 American adults who identified themselves as users of smartphones, said the device has become a consumer’s “always-on companion” and 93 percent use it at home, 87 percent while commuting or walking, 77 percent while in a store and 72 percent while at work.

Smartphones, according to the study, “serve as pocket PCs and extend the desktop experience” with 81 percent of smartphone users browsing the Internet, 77 percent using search engines and 68 percent using an app. Seventy-two percent of users also report using their phones while consuming other media like listening to music, 44 percent; watching TV, 33 percent; reading a book, 16 percent; and reading a newspaper or magazine, 22 percent.

The study offers a peek into the quickly rising use of mobile devices to access the Internet. It’s just a peek because local usage scenario would likely be slightly different. For instance, the study said 89 percent of US respondents use their smartphones to stay connected with 82 percent saying they check and send emails with their phones and 63 percent using it for social networking. The numbers will likely be the other way around for Filipinos, who are among the world’s most active group of people in social networks.

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Smart launches low-cost Android tablet

SMART today announced the offering of a 7-inch Android 2.2 powered tablet bundled with its Smart Bro package. The company said the offering will further “democratize” Internet access in the country.

The ZTE V9 was launched last week with a suggested retail price of P12,795.

ZTE V9. The 7-inch Android 2.2-powered tablet is being bundled with Smart Bro and is sold at a suggested retail price of P12,795. (CLICK ON PHOTO TO ENLARGE)

“The ZTE V9 is an affordable way for our subscribers to get the rich Internet experience of desktops and laptops, and the convenience and portability of Internet-capable mobile phones,” Smart chief wireless advisor Orlando Vea said in a press statement.

“We know that many Filipinos still access the Internet mainly through Internet cafes and work or school computers. With low-cost Internet devices such as this, we aim to increase the country’s Internet population, by enabling more people to easily have their own personal Internet access device,” Vea said.

Initially being offered for prepaid subscription, Smart is making available the ZTE V9 on affordable payment terms. Subscriber may pay in six monthly installments at 0 percent interest through participating credit cards. It comes with a Smart Bro prepaid SIM with five days of unlimited Internet browsing. Subscriber may then register the Smart Bro prepaid account to avail of Unlisurf Packages, Per Minute Packages, or All Text Packages.

But more than just for Internet surfing, Smart officials expect Smart Bro to revolutionize the way subscribers use data services through the ZTE V9.

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The sky isn’t falling

(Here’s my closing remarks at the Online Campus Journalism Seminar and Workshop held by Smart for campus journalists in Cebu.)

Twelve years ago, a group of journalists, writers and artists in Cebu decided to form a cooperative and publish a different type of community newspaper. The Independent Post was a paper that was to be owned by its readers, who were to have a big influence on how the paper was run.

We set on in that quixotic enterprise with a couple of millions, big dreams and a lot of hard work.

But, it was the height of the Asian economic crisis. We burned through whatever funding we had but still tried to hold on to that grand dream of blazing a journalism trail, working hard for little or no pay.

In two years, the paper folded. Big dreams, instant noodles and hard, hard, hard work were not enough.

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Smart offers unlimited calling within its network nationwide with Smartalk

Smart Communications is offering its subscribers unlimited calling within its network through the Smartalk service, which will be available nationwide starting tomorrow, June 26.

Under the service, which was formally unveiled in Cebu yesterday, Smart subscribers can make unlimited calls to other users in its network using two subscription plans: Smartalk 100 and Smartalk 500.

Smartalk launch in Cebu
SMARTALK LAUNCH. (From left) Atty. Maria Jane Paredes, Smart public affairs manager for Visayas and Mindanao, Danilo Mojica, head of Smart’s wireless consumer division, and Annie Naval, marketing group head, answer questions of reporters from Cebu and Mindanao during the launch of Smartalk in Cebu City.

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Why I’m leaving Sony Ericsson for Nokia

Like Saul, my conversion happened on the road.

I was on my way to a meeting and needed to constantly check my e-mail as well as keep my instant messaging (IM) accounts online when it hit me, like the Biblical blinding light, that the Nokia E71 is the best mobile Internet device I’ve used.

It isn’t just the ease by which the device is able to use multiple Internet access points—from various wi-fi hot spots with different security settings to HSPA —it is also the dependability of the device in keeping that connection. Nokia E71

In the two weeks that I was asked to test an E71 review unit, I’ve never experienced having difficulty going online and staying there.

When I was asked by Nokia to test the E71, I was a rabid Sony Ericsson fan boy. But a decade of using Sony Ericsson phones was no match with just a fortnight with the E71. By the end of the test, I had decided to shift to an Eseries device later this year.

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Ateneo de Manila University project wins Smart Sweep Innovation and Excellence Award

A STUDENT project that uses social networking, short message service (SMS) and Smart Communications Inc.’s money transfer to gather relief goods for communities hit by disasters won this year’s Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program (Smart Sweep) Innovation and Excellence Award.

The student team from Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) won P500,000 for themselves and P500,000 in grants for their school last Saturday at the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City.

Charese Olmoguez (right), student team leader of Ateneo de Davao, explains to Smart SWEEP judges how her group’s search and rescue management system, which uses global positioning system (GPS) and geographic information system (GIS) data, works. Ateneo de Davao won second place in last Saturday’s Smart SWEEP Innovation and Excellence Award. (PHOTO FROM SMART PUBLIC AFFAIRS)

The Smart Sweep Innovation and Excellence Award was dominated by Ateneo schools, with ADMU taking the first and third spots and Ateneo de Davao University taking second place.

The ADMU team of Marc Ericson Santos, Adrian Khan, Carlos Miguel Lacson and Marty Peterson Tan was mentored by Ronell Sicat. The team created an integrated system that allowed people not only to donate online but to also invite friends in their social network to donate to their communities of choice. The system also tracks the donations.

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PLDT Landline Plus goes prepaid: Turn any GSM phone into a portable “landline”

PLDT will launch this weekend prepaid plans for its Landline Plus service. The service, previously available only on monthly postpaid plans, gives consumers “fixed-wireless telephone lines.”

Calls to these wireless handsets, within a provincial area, are considered local connections and aren’t charged by the minute. The Landline Plus user is only charged by the minute for outgoing calls, not incoming ones. These handsets can also send and receive SMS messages.

PLDT Landline Plus PORTABLE LANDLINE. The PLDT Landline Plus Prepaid SIM running on the Sony Ericsson K8001. With the SIM, calls to this phone from a landline, whether Globe or PLDT, are considered local connections and are not charged by the minute. You know the SIM is active by the operator logo: it says PLDT instead of Smart. Click on photo to enlarge.

But the availability of prepaid plans is just an undercard (in boxing parlance) to what will be launched through TV ads during Manny Pacquiao’s fight this Sunday: Landline Plus is going GSM SIM-based.

It can now be used with any GSM mobile handset.

With the prepaid plan, not only are you free from being locked into the service for a year, you also no longer need to pay for the handset or activation fee. You also no longer need to submit applications and other required documents. You just buy the P100 SIM and insert it into a GSM handset that’s open line or locked to Smart and Talk and Text and you have a portable “landline.”

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