Among the members of the ASEAN, the Philippines lags behind in taking advantage of the internet of things to improve the quality of its citizens’ lives.
The internet of things was coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999 and is used to describe a “network of separate, uniquely identified devices that sometimes have the ability to talk with each other, without requiring human to human, or human to computer interaction”.
Among the members of the ASEAN, the Philippines lags behind in taking advantage of the internet of things to improve the quality of its citizens’ lives. Slow internet speed and high cost of equipment are the common excuses provided.
But there are existing technologies that can now be used to implement internet of things and improve the quality of life of ordinary citizens. Take for example the potential use of internet of things to ease the daily torture of commuters.
Juan wakes up in the morning and anticipates the crowded buses he would have to contend with to get to work. But he has an app on his phone that reserves a seat on the bustrain plying EDSA. He chooses which designated stop he will board and then alight. The app shows him the available schedules with vacant seats and he confirms his choice. The corresponding amount is then deducted from his account.
A bustrain is a set of 5 buses, travelling closely together thus mimicking a train. The bustrain travels at a constant speed and stops only at designated areas. The buses in the bustrain can come from different bus operators but would need to meet certain requirements such as dashcams, wi-fi access points, working air conditioning system, comfortable seats, etc.
Juan waits at his designated boarding area for the bustrain. The app on his phone tells him which specific bustrain and bus number (1, 2, 3, 4 or 5) to take. He then boards his assigned bus and taps his phone on a reader installed inside the bus. Juan is assured of a seat as the system knows the exact number of passengers per bus at a given time. The app gives him an alert when his designated stop is approaching.
For those without smartphones, kiosks are available at convenience stores which can print tickets accepted by the readers on the bus.
Bus drivers do not need to recklessly speed from one stop to the other because his passenger capacity is assured.
The existing technologies to make this internet of things happen are readily available. Filipino commuters are already familiar with mobile scheduling apps. Online payment systems such as GCash or PayMaya can be used to collect the bustrain fares. GPS can provide the locations and schedules of the bustrains. Asset scheduling monitoring system can assign the passengers to the buses and monitor capacity. This same system can also be used to register the vehicles and drivers and collect information. Drivers can be monitored if they have been on the road for more than the allowed safety standards. Buses can be monitored for their maintenance schedules. All of these information are presented in a dashboard in a central command center.
Buses which are due for maintenance will not be assigned any passengers. And since buses in the bustrain are equipped with dashcams, plate recognition systems can be used to track vehicles (such as cars using the designated bustrain lane) blocking or slowing down the bustrain and hefty fines face the drivers of such vehicles (if you can’t pay the fine, don’t do the crime).
An indirect result of the use of this kind of technology is improving the time management behavior of Filipinos. The perception of Filipino time can be altered. If Juan is late in arriving at his designated boarding venue, only half of his fare is refunded. If he still wants commute via the bustrain, the mobile app will obviously show a much later schedule of available seats. If Juan does not alight at his designated stop, he will be charged extra. And since the system offers rewards and incentives, repeated behaviors of being late and not alighting at designated stops will affect his points.
This kind of system should be operated by a private enterprise with regulations (such as the designated bus lane and fares) provided by the government (i.e. MMDA and LTFRB).
The internet of things can be readily put to good use to give more control to Filipinos in managing their daily commute. They can now have control of their time and not be dependent on the bus drivers.
The mobile phone app, the kiosks, dashcams, the GPS, the online system, the command center are all connected to make Juan’s commuting experience better.
Filipino time only works because everyone goes to a 9:30 AM meeting at 10:00. But if only Juan arrives late and everyone else is already at the meeting venue, then Juan cannot use the perennial excuse “Traffic sa EDSA eh”.