New PH passport

The Philippines just released its new passport design and I had the opportunity to see it first hand. Below is my report on it. My favorite part is its illustrations of multiple Philippine sites.

PCG shows new passport equipped with upgraded security features

The lyrics of the Philippine National Anthem, “Lupang Hinirang” are also available inside!

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Uber and SPG in Dubai

Uber application on a smartphone

Uber application on a smartphone

Uber and SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) have partnered up for a unique service for their customers. Uber riders can now earn 1 Starpoint for every US$1 (Dhs. 3.70) spent on their Uber rides. Dubai is one of the five selected participating cities to serve this joined special service.

Uber taxi and SPG allow their customers to book their taxi and hotel rooms respectively online through their applications. SPG also allow their customers to check in to their hotel rooms using their smart phones using bluetooth technology for a keyless initiative experience. Both applications can be downloaded from Apple Store and Google Play store.

RTA taxi on Dubai roads

RTA taxi on Dubai roads

Moamin Elatawy, 25, a Senior HR Executive from MARKA stated that he has not heard of Uber Taxi. When told about what it was, he said that, “It might not be as safe and qualified as RTA taxis. RTA taxi drivers are trained straight from the Government.” Elatawy mentioned that he has heard of applications like SPG from different hotels, however, he feels that there won’t be much of a difference as UAE has a law of giving a copy of Emirates ID or passport upon check in. “It will be the same if you book from Booking.com.”, Elatawy said.

Dubai is a tourist destination and is a growing hub. Numerous hotels have popped up over the years in the city. Anina Georgieva, 25, Assistant Front Office Manager from Doubletree by Hilton said that she has not heard of Uber Taxi but has heard of SPG. She said that most hotels have their own services like limousines for their guests. She mentioned that SPG is not the first type of service introduced in Dubai.

SPG application on a smartphone

SPG application on a smartphone

Hilton Loyalty members have been getting a similar point system and have a special application called E-Check in. Hilton Loyalty members can download the application and can directly book from it and choose which particular room they want to book. The map of the hotel is available for the member to choose, similar to choosing a cinema seat when booking for an e-ticket online.

The technology of these two applications is great but getting the public to use it might be a challenge. As Georgieva said, “This type of service will only appeal to executives who travels a lot and not to the general public.” It may start slow now but in the future, specially as Dubai is gearing up for the Expo 2020, the Uber and SPG experience might be one of the most popular to use.

Have you used this service or similar before? What are your thoughts on this? Comment below.

UAE Drones for Good Award

Earlier this year, I posted in What drones can do stating that I  attended UAE Drones for Good Award. As promised here is my article.

Drones in the UAE

Drone is an unmanned aerial or combat vehicle that has become a known tool in the military. However, there are other ideas in which this device can be of use. UAE Drones for Good Awards announced last year at the UAE Government Summit by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. He created a platform for drone developers to present their ideas using the drone technology. They have three categories; National, International and Government.

Wadi Drones during their presentation.

Wadi Drones during their presentation.

The winners were announced on the 7th of February 2015 at Dubai Internet City. For the National category, NYU (New York University) Abu Dhabi students and faculty team, Wadi Drones won Dh1 million. The conservative drone will help the park rangers to inspect Wadi Wurayah National Park which they originally have to do so on foot. During summer season, it is with great difficulty at times to do the job not only because of the heat, but also from danger of cliff falling and wild animals. With Wadi Drones, they will be facing less risks. The Wadi Drones can do the job for them by collecting data like salinity and atmospheric data around the park.

Flyability, a Swiss company, won the international category with USD1 million (Dh3.67 million). Their drone is focused on deploying to difficult areas during fire and disasters which is usually done by search and rescue teams who face life threatening situations.

Etisalat won the Government category. Their drone can go to remote areas, like the desert and mountains, where the telecommunication signals are low. It strengthens the signal wherever it goes. This will help if anyone needed to call the police or coast guards for rescue.

Drones for society

These ideas are great and are one step ahead in utilizing drone as a useful tool for our society. However, will drones really help the UAE? According to Xavier Esparrich, Senior Aviation Consultant from ALG (Advanced Logistics Group) Indra Business Consulting, drones that were originally developed for military purposes can be used for civil applications. They can be used for surveillance and earth observation.

There are commercially made drones available in the public market. These drones are made for hobby purposes. Regulating different types of drones in the UAE might be difficult but according to Xavier Esparrich, there are civil aviation authorities in each nation which adhere to international standards and regulations. In the UAE, it is the General Civil Aviation Authority which issues a national regulation to control the use of drones in the civil airspace.

George Held, Vice President Commerce in Digital Services, Etisalat Group, stated that in the UAE, the best authoritative bodies to regulate drones are the TRA (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority) and the UAE’s Civil Defense. He stressed that these two bodies are the best in regulating drones as they both have the right jurisdiction in the UAE concerning drone technology.

Frederico Renda with educational drones at the UAE Drones for Good Award.

Frederico Renda with educational drones at the UAE Drones for Good Award.

Other than regulating the use of drones, will the drones disturb the peace of the country and what about the safety measures? According to Frederico Renda, Post Doc Fellow at Khalifa University, each drone that is developed for civil purposes are designed in such a way where it does not harm or endanger the public. Other than its applications to do a certain job, it is designed to meet certain safety measures.

For example, the commercial drones are just made for leisure purposes and nothing else but a drone that entered in the UAE Drones for Good Award have a skill programmed in them to do a certain job. Both drones have different safety measures  as both are designed distinctly for different reasons.

Serving forward

It may be easy to say that the use of drone technology for civil use is still in the research and development stage. However, drones have been around for many years in the military. According to Xavier Esparrich, there has been a reduction in human loss, specially for pilots, in the military when the drone technology had been introduced.

Drones have been successful at achieving what they needed to do in the military. To use it as a tool in our society; it has to be approached wisely. When a new technology is discovered, it needs to be applied ethically especially if it can promote progress in our society.

In Singapore, Infinium Robotics have developed drones to serve you your food at a restaurant, BBC reports. Imagine having drones delivering your food to your table from the kitchen. It may sound surreal right now but it has started. Edward Chia, managing director of Timbre Group, which runs several restaurants in Singapore, plans to buy 40 drones to work in six of their locations.

Due to new visa regulations in Singapore, hiring foreign workers for the service industry is difficult. Singaporeans do not want to work in the service industry. This is why Edward Chia welcomes the idea of having drones as servers to solve his problem.

Drone future

George Held (far right) with his Etisalat Drone Squad at the UAE Drones for Good Award.

George Held (far right) with his Etisalat Drone Squad at the UAE Drones for Good Award.

Xavier Esparrich emphasized that the effect of the UAE Drones for Good Awards is very positive. The idea of allowing the developers of drone technology a chance to meet with potential clients who can further raise awareness of the idea of drone technology for civil purposes is outstanding. He said that there are other numerous potential applications, non-military purposes, with the drone technology.

United Arab Emirates have evolved into a growing hub. During the second day of the UAE Government Summit on 11th February 2015 at Madinat Jumeirah, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs mentioned during his speech that though Emiratis come from the desert, through their effort, UAE was able to advance its people, infrastructure and society.

With a very optimistic attitude towards their future, UAE can conquer their dreams. The driving force, to be open minded towards new ideas when it comes to innovation, is very admirable. The future of drones in the UAE is possible as the UAE Government is not afraid to try new things that might give an advantage to their country.

#GetJoshToSheeran

#GetJoshToSheeran

Support my friend Josh Monteath to perform with Ed Sheeran this month. Share the picture and use the hashtag #GetJoshToSheeran to spread the word. Thanks.

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Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoshMonteath

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Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/josh-monteath

Sniffles season

It has been a few weeks now that a lot of people have caught the bug, the infamous sniffles. It is that time of the year again. However, this time many people have been hit so bad that they ended up getting to the hospital to be nursed back to health. Many doctors, general practitioners to be more precised, are probably reciting the same line each time a new patient enters their clinic. Why is the sniffles so easy to catch yet hard to beat?

One of the main reason is because everyone do not take the right amount of nutritious intake for the body to combat against the virus. One of the easiest way to prevent the sniffles to conquer you is to drink lots of liquids, water and fresh juices. Take vitamin C also if you can. Sleep at the right time also helps. A proper rest and right intakes during this season can overcome the sniffle easily without any hurdle.

For some who have already caught the bug, nurse oneself back to health by getting lots of rest and drink plenty of liquids. If you have a fever take Panadol if not, then go to the hospital and get yourself checked. Get well and stay healthy everyone!

Doctor's appointment

What drones can do

I recently had the privilege to attend UAE Drones For Good Awards. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice President of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched a competition last year for drone makers or enthusiasts to present their best ideas for a drone to do. There were three categories: International, National and Government. Around 800 submissions were received. It was a two day event to highlight the semi finals all the way to the finals to award the winners in the end.

It was so fascinating to see so many ideas of what a drone can do, from agriculture to civil uses. The drones were first developed for military purposes and we all know how it is used during wars. They have reduced the risk of lives in the army. In the event that I attended, different shapes and sizes of drones were present. Each drone had its own ability to do a specific job. I wrote a feature story on it for my project. I also had pictures. I will share it once I have graduated which is later this year. For a sneak peak I’ll share two snaps at the event.

UAE Drones For Good

UAE Drones For Good - 1

Update: Here is a link to the article I wrote about this particular event UAE Drones for Good Award

11th Dubai International Film Festival 2014

This year the Dubai International Film Festival is in its 11th edition. Countless stars have been reported to attend the festival and more Arab films have been submitted from all over the world. Hollywood star Emily Blunt to famous comedian Wonho Chung walked the red carpet. For the first time this year, films in DIFF are now recognized by the Oscar Academy. That means films that are played in DIFF now have a chance to be nominated in Oscars.

I attended the festival this year and the movie that I was most excited about was Emirati filmmaker, Ali F. Mostafa’s From A to B. I don’t want to give anything away as I have already watched it. It was filled with drama all the way to comedy. It was very easy to relate to the actors in the film, specially if you are from the Gulf or grew up in the Gulf. It touched sensitive topics just enough to allow the audience to reflect.

Here is the trailer of From A to B. Enjoy! Make sure to watch it when it officially comes out in the cinemas next month. I surely enjoyed it and I’m sure you will too.

Science Film Festival 2014 – Dubai

I grew up in Singapore as a kid and finding out that the Science Film Festival is going to take place in Dubai for the first time, I was ecstatic. I needed to cover this on one of my projects. The festival brought back a lot of my childhood memories when I was in Singapore where my school would send us to the Science Centre with the different festivals and activities taking place there. I covered the festival and enjoyed seeing the kids experiencing similarly as I did as a kid. Science is fun and through festivals like these kids will enjoy the subject more.

Photo Competition for young photographers, 13-17

At this year’s Science Film Festival, there is a photo competition for young photographers, 13-17 years.

This contest is open to all countries.

Topic: Future Technologies

First Prize: Canon 7D Camera Kit
Second Prize: Polaroid Camera
Third Prize: Camera Kit for Mobile Phones

To take part click here

Good luck everyone!