Be Nice To Your Uber Driver

Commuters love Uber. Especially on rainy days when getting a taxi off the road is harder than striking lottery in Singapore. Instances where taxi drivers refuse to pick up certain passengers because: 1) – they not going towards the ‘same’ direction as the commuters, thus inconvenient, or 2) rainy days are deemed ‘dangerous’ to drive due to slippery roads, hence picking up passengers is not advisable.

Of course, they have every right to refuse your business if they want to, whether you find their reasons (excuses) valid or not. Not wanting to pick up passengers that doesn’t ‘meet area requirements’ or ‘increases risk of an accident’ are examples of how humans adhere to the principle of ‘putting your own needs and safety’ first, and for the majority of drivers (not discounting the fact that some taxi drivers DO go out of their way for their passengers), this is just a natural thing to do.

However, this certainly does not bodes well with commuters who just NEED to travel to a certain destination no matter what and on whatever day (rain or shine). After all, the freedom to travel is commuters’ right too, no?

To meet the demands of commuters, technology has enabled car-sharing services like Uber and GrabCar to thrive in these environments by making use of what is already on the roads – cars.

Commuters rejoice as they no longer have to wait endlessly at taxi stands for taxis to show up. Even those who frequently used cab booking services via phone, sms or taxi app know how exasperating it can be especially during peak hours.

This is where Uber, GrabCar and other car-sharing services come in. Instead of just waiting for an available cab to show up, we now have more travel options to choose from. Since conventional taxi services failed you, commuters can now turn to alternative solutions to meet their travel needs.

This is not a problem unique to Singapore or other cities in Southeast Asia because of dense city population or notorious traffic conditions. Noting that Uber was first conceived in San Francisco, it goes to show that the skewed commuters-taxi ratio is apparent in many major cities and it is an (annoying) existing problem faced by the commuters who doesn’t drive.

To the commuters, the rise of Uber and similar services alleviate their travel pain points. For private drivers, the services they render provided a source of income for them to lessen certain financial burdens. At first look, it seems like a win-win situation where everyone benefits: commuters get their rides, private drivers find new source of income, and existing taxis can remain as picky as they want to be.

After all, for all the passengers that the taxi did not want to pick up are loss income anyway and for them to turn to a third-party service who is willing to fulfill their request is just plain logic.

I mean, ‘to each of his/her own needs’ right? If I am rejected umpteen times by taxis who refused to take me from Tampines to Boon Lay at 12 midnight, what should I do? Continue to wait endlessly and pray that the next taxi driver will ‘conveniently’ go to Boon Lay? Just leave it to chance and hope for the best? Or would you turn to an alternative service which will help to improve your chance to get to your destination?

Which why I find it a little hard to comprehend the anger among certain groups of conventional taxi drivers towards private drivers. Reports of Uber drivers being hurled abuse at by taxi drivers are not new, and according to a recent news by Business Insider, even Uber executives are not spared from the hostile and violent reactions in some ‘Anti-Uber’ cities and countries.

The company has since filed legal action against threatening characters who have show up in lobbies, accost Uber executives, flame them on Twitter and send death threats. Some protesters even harassed the executives by throwing eggs at their homes.

For a company who has creatively challenge an age-old city transport problem, this kind of hostile and violent reaction is definitely uncalled for. True enough, taxi drivers now feel the threat as what used to be their ‘market-only’ is being opened up to more players – meaning business may not as good as before.

Plus, there are also concerns on car insurance, passenger safety etc. where clear-cut regulations need to be drawn up to create a more level playing field. But let’s not go into that now, and take a step back and look at the big picture.

The reason why Uber is so successful is because there is a market demand and technological advances i.e. real-time location services and GPS have made this possible. So even if there is no Uber, you can be certain that there WILL definitely be something else.

Human beings are problem-solvers by nature, and if the means are available, nothing will stop them if there is demand and the opportunity to monetize it.

We are all part of this economic system, like it or not. And directing anger and abuse at those who are simply providing a demanded service… won’t change anything…

So why not look at this from another perspective? Instead of viewing these car-sharing drivers as a threat, consider that for reasons unknown to you, the private car driver might be shouldering a heavy debt or is currently facing some financial difficulties. Some Uber drivers I know, wanted to earn that extra income so that their family can live a little easier – which something we all want for our loved ones isn’t it?

Considering the kind of criticisms that our private drivers had to faced in real life and in digital world, for rendering a service we desperately need, let’s all be a little more empathetic. So be nice to your Uber driver okay?

-sh

Editor’s note: Well of course, when there are good eggs, there are bad eggs as well. While there are definitely some horrible private drivers, the purpose of this article is not to spread hate so if you have had a bad experience with such services do report the matter accordingly to the respective service provider and the local authorities.

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Let’s Talk About Collaboration

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Video conferencing has come a long way. From what was novel and interesting at first to be able see and chat with a person on a display, VC has now become a useful and practical tool in corporate boardrooms and meeting spaces. A veteran in the Uni ed Communication & Collaboration (UCC) industry / space, Polycom has come a long way, growing alongside with old and new technologies alike.

Moving forward, what kind of trends and developments can we expect from the UCC industry? SI Asia’s Shireen Ho caught up with Michael Frendo, Executive Vice President, Engineering of Polycom to find out more.

The Changing Face of Visual Collaboration
Over the years, video collaboration has become much more dynamic. The solution is no longer “one size fits all”. Traditional VC rooms which comprised of a screen and a camera at the end of a room and long table are beginning to see slower growth rate as the market becomes saturated.

“It’s still selling and it’s a good market, but it’s not a market that is proliferating,” said Michael. “What the market now needs are solutions that can address work spaces more appropriately according to their needs. When you consider what the spaces are used for and how they are being used, you open up a door to video collaboration in a much broader way… So you combine that aspect with the knowledge that people are much more comfortable with video now because it’s everywhere – on your mobile devices, laptops and tablets.”

…Historically, customers had to adapt to the way video was delivered, but now we are able to make visual collaboration tools adapt to the way people work.

Workplace of The Future
We have been talking about “Workplace of The Future” for a while now. However, in many experts’ view, the “workplace of the future” is no longer in the future, but it is here, right now, happening in our offices and workspaces. How would Michael define this workplace and in his opinion, what are the main drivers of this revolution?

“From what I see, there are three dimensions to this. Firstly, technology. Looking at how technology has evolved, a great deal of it is about interconnectivity and mobility. The world is becoming hyper connected, and people are expected to be connected to everything all the time.”

It’s true, compared to slightly more than a decade earlier where email was king, today’s communication channels have evolved greatly. We use chat applications like Whatsapp, WeChat and social media tools like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with people and broadcast our thoughts. As time goes by, we are now expected to be connected and responsive at all times.

According to Michael, the second dimension to workplace of the future will be the generational shift. As more and more people coming up in the workforce today are millennials, they are beginning to have more influence over the way we work.

“The millennials are expected to join the majority of the workforce in the next 5-10 years, and they are very different from previous generations. Being digital natives, they have been around technology since they were born. So their expectations and their comfort with technology is different,” he explained.

Millennials eat, live and breathe technology. There is no resistance to use technology or try out new ideas / devices. They are the first generation who embrace visual collaboration as a preferred means of communication – which is interesting because they somewhat skipped the audio conferencing stage and went straight from chat to video.

“Because they are digital natives, the connected world is a place they are used to, hence they will bring that aspect of their personal lifestyle into their professional lives as well. Things like checking their smartphones 3-7 times an hour shows their need to be constantly connected.”

Michael went on to elaborate the third piece: work space. Impacted by the two earlier mentioned dimensions, the size of work spaces are also influenced by companies who want more collaboration between their employees.

The power of being able to cooperate globally combined with the fact that workspaces are changing – drives the need for smaller workspaces like huddle spaces, where people can get together and work locally through shared screens. To Michael, these are all mega trends in the modern workplace and the motivation behind Polycom’s product innovations.

“The power of collective minds and collaboration is so much more powerful than an individual working on their own, but collaboration is not necessarily something people do in a room together. I mean they can and they still do, but with an increasingly globalised marketplace, companies are venturing out of their home country and have teams around the world. It’s a very distributed workforce we have now.”

Augmented Collaboration Experience?
In recent years, augmented reality has become a big thing for vertical markets and many companies have already started to explore how AR can help enhance processes and experiences. But how would it affect collaboration in the long run, and is it something UCC leaders should look into?

“Absolutely. I think augmented reality will play an important role sooner than virtual reality. The idea of being in an augmented conference room where you can see information overlay with real-life objects and appears automatically is something people really look forward to.”

Pushing Forward: Enabling Technologies
We know that millennials and innovative companies are two key drivers in revolutionising the modern workplace, but advancement in basic technology infrastructure such as DSP, bandwidth have also played an important role in enabling the quality and flexibility of visual collaboration we have today. What is Michael’s take on this?

“There are a lot of factors that have to be there to make this work. There will always be a number of factors that will come into play that enable something to happen that couldn’t happen before. For example, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP). This real-time communication in the internet space is something that was enabled by advancement in DSP horsepower and suddenly you could compress and do things with voice that you couldn’t do before. In the 10 years before VoIP, those things were impossible not because you can’t do it, but because cost was so prohibitive that you couldn’t deploy end-points that way.”

He continued, “But then suddenly the evolution of technology gets to a place where something that was feasible but not commercially viable becomes viable. Video is very much the same. When you look at the way how optical network and bandwidth has evolved in the last 5 years, we have gone from optical fibre carrying 500GB of traffic to 8TB of traffic or more today. So now you have all these bandwidth and bandwidth is always a fundamental enabler for things to happen.”

 

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*This article was first published in the Jun-Jul 2016 issue of Systems Integration Asia. 

SINGAPORE: Roaring Lion City

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A modern city-state, Singapore is an island country in Southeast Asia. With a land area just over 700km², it is not surprising that many do not think much about the country’s economy. But contrary to that, Singapore is actually one of the wealthiest countries in the world. In 2014, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ranked Singapore the third highest on GDP per capita, just behind Qatar and Luxembourg.

Reflecting this success would be the upcoming 50th anniversary celebration of the nation’s independence. Leading up to the National Day Celebrations, a number of “SG50”, activities and events have been popping up over the year, which saw many of our local rental & staging businesses playing key roles in hyping up the occasion with dazzling lights and fancy projections.

Have you seen our Facebook posts on the 3D projection mapping done a few months back on the facade of Fullerton Hotel? Recently, the light projection in the waters at Singapore River also captivated visitors with animated carps. All these were part of the celebration put up by the nation to attract crowd and promote tourism.

In terms of verticals, we also saw an interesting Edtech application in this issue as demonstrated by Nanyang Polytechnic in their collaborative learning classroom – which further highlights Singapore education institutions’ forward-thinking and ability to implement audiovisual technologies across different sectors, be it for entertainment or education and more.

And of course, how can we forget about the Singapore Sport Hub that opened last year. Hailed as one of the biggest projects in Singapore, the audiovisual elements involved in this massive infrastructure were also proudly done by our leading integrators.

In addition to all these excitement, we also saw overseas manufacturers and international integrators such as Tripleplay, Tendzone, IHSE and Pixel Projects, setting up their regional headquarters here recently in Singapore – clearly refl ecting the industry’s confi dence in the region’s potential and Singapore’s infrastructure to provide good support.

Last but not least, we must not also forget about the government’s push for Smart Nation, as mentioned in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s opening address at the Founders Forum in April. Riding on the momentum, Bosch signed a technology consortium with NCS to develop IoT solutions that will enable Singapore to be a world-leading smart, connected nation. Though the focus is on IT, however, with the AV-IT convergence buzz going on nowadays, it is something we should look out for.

Overall, it seems like the proAV industry in Singapore is set to go on for a while, but in the midst of these happenings, are there underlying issues which need to be addressed? SI Asia spoke to several leading integrators and consultants to gain insights.

Growth of Audio Visual

On the growth of audiovisual business in Singapore, local integrators and consultants were generally upbeat about it. Joe Fong, Deputy Managing Director of Electronics & Engineering, remarked, “Although the growth rate may only be limited by government institutions and educational sector, our nation’s SG50 and SEA games have also contributed some AV business to rental and equipment suppliers.”

True enough, the nation’s SG50 celebration and the upcoming Southeast Asia (SEA) games have certainly given our AV businesses a reason to rejoice. When asked if the Smart Nation’s initiative plays a part as well, Sujith Sivaram, Executive Director of ESCO Pte Ltd, shared, “Yes, riding on the Smart Nation Initiative, the AV business in Singapore is set to grow beyond the nominal growth forecasts for the economy of 2-3%.”

“Whilst healthcare and educations sectors are expected to be the major spenders, retail and government sectors are expected to invest signifi cantly in new technologies.” – Sujith Sivaram, ESCO

In addition, Sujith also mentioned that the increased investment in communication infrastructure and adoption of new technologies would also contribute to the growth of Infocomm Technology business.

But what sectors are predicted to see the most growth? A myriad of opinions ensues, but government and education verticals seems to be widely agreed upon by all since the Singapore government announced the Smart Nation initiative. Other verticals that were mentioned include corporate and retail.

“Corporate and government are verticals that we expect to have a huge growth, in addition to the retail industry as well.” – Jesse Liu, Pixel Projects

“We believe government and educational sector, will lead the volume growth. This is especially true as the government is leading Singapore to become a Smart nation in its 10-year masterplan.” – Joe Fong, Electronics & Engineering.

Interestingly, Lin Asia also weighs in on the increasing number of Houses of Worship projects going on in Singapore. Having completed a project in a Hindu temple recently, Kelvin Lin, President & Principal Consultant of Lin Asia, commented, “It’s not just the mega churches, but smaller churches, temples and mosques as well. I think there is a far greater awareness on AV integration within their facilities nowadays compared to the past.”

Solution Trends

So what do our interviewees think of the solution trends? What type of solutions do they foresee will have the strongest growth? Jesse quickly pointed out conference systems and Digital Signage while Sujith commented, “With the impetus on improving the communications infrastructure, conferencing solutions are likely to exhibit strong growth.”

He continued, “Solutions which offer innovative and refreshing technologies will lead the growth wave as far as projections, displays and other AV solutions are concerned.” Joe, meanwhile, weighed in his opinion on display system and content acquisition solutions involving IT. In a different line of thought, Kelvin shared his views on selling solutions as an integrated AV package. “I think it (the solution) will always come hand-in-hand.” He continued, “Unlike in the past where audio and video solutions were addressed separately, they are now looked at as one product. So instead of just doing audio installation like what we used to do, we are now expected to marry our audio with visual/video.”

Importance of After Sales

Needless to say, After Sales service has always been an integral part of any integrator’s business. Our interviewees each shared their views on its importance:

“When we take on a job, we also factor in the effort that we will need to provide as the warranty support and post warranty support. At the same time, we will also propose a maintenance service contract to our customers and explain to customers the importance of having a professional service team to look after their critical and expensive AV setup.” – Jesse Liu, Pixel Projects.

“Of course it is important! AV Integration is a holistic service, of which post sales service is an inseparable part. For over a decade, ESCO has been engaging customers through our ESCO Care & Global Managed Services (GMS) programmes.” – Sujith Sivaram, ESCO.

“Yes. It has been E&E’s business philosophy to invest heavily in aftersales service even before actual business begins. No customer will engage a vendor who is just interested to sell boxes.” – Joe Fong, Electronics & Engineering.

Biggest Business Challenge

During discussion, two key issues came up when we asked our interviewees about their biggest business challenge. They are: manpower/talent acquisition and clients who do not understand the quality of the work they do, hence price sensitivity.

On manpower issue, Joe shared, “Our business started to become challenging since 2011 when the Singapore government began to control manpower workforce into Singapore.” Agreeing, Jesse also remarked, “Lack of qualified manpower is a big challenge for us, hence we are recruiting new graduates to train them in-house and on the job.”

But the biggest challenge here involved the clients. As Kelvin puts it across, some clients do not truly understand the value of the work and often, compared the products they have, with cheaper alternatives that they think will produce the same results.

“With the digital revolution, audiovisual equipment are made cheaper and more convenient. Looking at cost versus quality, some clients seem to miss out on the quality of the audiovisual hardware and think that it is the norm. So one of the biggest challenges integrators have nowadays is how do they justify the cost of quality to their client.” – Kelvin Lin, Lin Asia

Future of AV – Trends and Figures

In terms of future business growth for Singapore and the region, our contributors were mostly hopeful and positive. Ranging from 20% to 35%, these are just some growth fi gures they have predicted for their business in the next 5-10 years. Besides Singapore, what picture do they see for Southeast Asia as a whole? Sujith of ESCO chipped in, “We see SEA market poised for stellar growth in the coming years; the strength of the US dollar is providing an immediate boost. Many of our customers have shared their plans for expansion of facilities within the region, hence we expect each of the market to provide as much opportunity as Singapore does in the coming years.”

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*This article was first published in the June-July 2015 issue of Systems Integration Asia.

 

 

Recording Video For Sports Analysis Made Simple

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A significant sports event for the region, the SEA (Southeast Asia) Games opened on 5th June till 16th June to much fanfare. If you were in the city-state during the period, it is impossible not to feel the heat and excitement that were built up to the event.

With 402 events in 36 sports featured, and approximately 4370 athletes from 11 participating nations in the Games, it was indeed an unforgettable experience for both the athletes and spectators.

But besides dazzling ceremonies and adrenaline-pumping sports – made possible by friendly volunteers and dedicated staff, did you know that there was also a team who worked hard in the sports analytics department?

Kept fairly busy throughout the games, the High Performance Sports Analytics Technology team of the Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) worked quietly behind the scenes to give the games a technology-edge by providing athletes and their coaches with HD quality games video for sports analysis.

WHAT IS SPORTS ANALYTICS?

Not entirely new in the sports world, coaches and sports analysts have been using sports analytics to improve athletes’ performance for the longest time. Back when we did not have advanced AV and IT technology, sports analysis was done manually.

But with better technology available, sports analytics has become much more sophisticated. Instead of using manual means to analyse data, sports analysts now use computers, videos and specialised analysis software.

For the SEA Games, the High Performance Sports Analytics Technology team of the Singapore Sports Institute incorporated the Dartfish software which is a video solution that helps provide visual feedback to the athletes, coaches and referees. The software enabled the coaches to view, edit and analyse the performance of their athletes through HD quality videos.

Using a private online platform, coaches were able to access the videos using computer or mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. The software combines technical, tactical and statistical analysis as well as annotation functions that allow coaches to highlight certain executions such as the athlete’s knee angle as he or she is running etc.

As we welcomed the Big Data Age, data analysis became even more important. After all, what is the use of having data if we can’t use them? In the growing field of sports analytics, athlete’s performance data and videos collected during competitions and trainings are analysed by sports analysts and churned out as figures and graphs for coaches to work on.

Other than optimising athlete’s performance, sports analytics is also used to determine an athlete’s worth during talent spotting and screening. At times, the results can also be used to guide coaches’ decisions during games. Coupled with wearable technology, sports analytic is expected to reach a new level in the next decade.

Importance of Recording Good Quality Video

However sports analysis wouldn’t be possible if analysts are not able to record good quality videos of the athlete’s performance. To do so, a good ICT infrastructure is required for fast video transmission and luckily for the team, Singapore was prepared for that.

At this year’s SEA Games, the Singapore Sports Institute saw the opportunity to record quality video as the city-state is equipped with high speed fibre optic connection. Making use of the country’s advanced infrastructure – also one of the first few success cases in Southeast Asia, the Singapore Sports Institute’s sports analytics team set up an operation room at the Singapore Sports Hub for that purpose.

Tapping on Singapore’s high speed fibre optic cable connection, the team made use of Riedel’s cutting-edge signal transport processing technology, MediorNet, to create a real-time network of video, audio and data communication within the Kallang cluster. The said cluster consists of the Singapore National Stadium, OCBC Arena Halls and OCBC Aquatic Centre. Some of the recorded games within the cluster include: Netball, Basketball, Table Tennis, Badminton, Tennis, Swimming, Diving, Water Polo etc.

For this installation, a total of six MediorNet Modular frames were used. Using two pairs of fibre at each location, two video feeds from each locations were fed into individual MediorNet Modular frames. Each frame was connected to two CWDM-8 channels card in a ring topology. For games happening at the National Stadium, the videos were fed via Mediacorp’s OB trucks.

At the main operation room where all the video feeds were gathered from the four locations, there were two units of the MediorNet modular frames with 5 links connected between the two frames and eight uncompressed HD video outputs to the workstation for recording purposes. Providing more than just simple point-to-point links, MediorNet allowed the team to send any incoming signal to any output or even to multiple outputs.

All feeds were live-recorded and had at least two different point of views of the same event. For example in swimming events, one feed was recorded from the moving camera that followed the athletes, while another is a more closeup angle of the moving swimmer.

In this instance, recording video is made easy and convenient, with zero to little latency – a feature the team greatly appreciated. In addition, MediorNet also helped the team to reduce the number of fi bre optic cables that is usually required in such a set-up by half.

The Singapore Sports Institute Says

A multiplex solution, the MediorNet network enabled the sports analytics team to monitor and record the multiple games simultaneously in a centralized location. All videos were recorded realtime and in uncompressed HD quality. “(MediorNet) is easy to install and operate.” said Benoit Ammann, Deputy Director, High Performance Sports Analytics & Technology, Singapore Sports Institute. “Everything is connected and it is within the same ecosystem.”

Before the days of fi bre optic transmission and advanced signal transporting processors, sport analysis often involved more hands-on video recording.

“(The whole ecosystem installed here) saves us on manpower, where we no longer need to send someone on the field to record live feeds. We can easily tap on existing camera feeds and record them,” said Benoit, on the key benefit of the network. And what were the responses from the coaches who were the end-users of the solution?

“They like it. This is an advanced service usually provided only at higher level sports meet like World Cup and Olympics, so being able to bring it to a regional game has greatly brought up the use of technology in sports analytics in the region.”

“Furthermore, the rise of mobile technology has also given sports analytics an extra edge as coaches can now playback the video on their tablets and smartphones.”

Of course, these were all only made possible with good ICT infrastructure and advanced processing technology that was able to handle all that huge bandwidth of uncompressed, HD videos.

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*This article was first published in August-September 2015 issue of Systems Integration Asia.