The traffic situation in major metropolitan areas in the Philippines, particularly Metro Manila and Cebu City, could become more bearable in the future, thanks to a collaboration between the World Bank, the Philippine transportation authority, and Grab, Southeast Asia’s leading ride-hailing service.
The goal is to decongest Metro Manila and Cebu City and identify potential road hazards by analyzing real-time data mined from GPS activity from Grab vehicles.
OpenTraffic, as the pilot program is called, will allow government agencies to create better public-transportation routes, and determine the best locations for public infrastructures like bridges, highways, and railways, and optimize traffic signals in cities that have some of the densest urban populations in the country.
Metro Manila alone has an estimated population of 16.5 million people. To put that into perspective, it’s more than the combined population of Sweden and Denmark and nearly as many as the current number of refugees who have left their countries altogether.
In the future, information from OpenTraffic will be sent to another tool called DRIVER (Data for Road Incident Visualization, Evaluation, and Reporting), which was developed by the World Bank and designed to improve the management of accident-prone areas and promote faster emergency response. With DRIVER, concerned agencies will receive notifications of road incidents as they happen.
Back in March, the Philippines’ transport ministry and the World Bank worked to train hundreds of government staff, including police and traffic personnel, on how to use the OpenTraffic program.
And the Philippines is just the start, not the destination, for OpenTraffic — in the same way that OpenTraffic could be the grease that starts the conversation for holistic solutions to the worsening traffic problem in Metro Manila and Cebu City.
Grab and the World Bank say they want to continue working on the project in hopes of making it available to other countries in the region.
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Starbucks Mobile Order & Pay 2.0: Cut through the queue
Make life less hectic!
When you’re an adult, coffee isn’t just a power-up drink helping you get through the day. It becomes an avenue for conversation, an invitation to meet people, a kick you need to fuel your creativity and productivity.
While there are several ways to brew coffee and there are different local neighborhood cafés to explore, Starbucks has always been within reach. And it has ingrained itself as an important part of my working life. A staple of the modern workforce’s culture. A lifestyle — tradition to an extent — that seeped in through the interstices of friendships and family.
When the pandemic struck, I started learning how to brew my own coffee. Occasionally, I order my caffeine fix through Grab or Foodpanda. But the experience isn’t the same.
Keyword: Experience. That’s precisely what Starbucks offers. So when Starbucks Philippines sent me a holiday card to try the new Mobile Order & Pay, a feature they had for a while that was rehashed, I decided it’s time to go out and try again.
Exploring the app
The Mobile Order & Pay 2.0 is available through the Starbucks app. If you’re a Starbucks lover, you probably have an account registered to Starbucks Rewards. The app is easy to use, particularly because of its clean user interface (UI) design.
Through the Starbucks app, you can check your account’s transaction history, monitor the stars collected via the Rewards program, and make some changes to your personal profile and payment methods. The app also has a lot of promotional materials, parading their latest drinks and treats that you can avail yourself of in-store or online.
And more importantly, you can reload your account, register your cards, and of course, get ahead of your day and order your favorite beverages.
Cut through the line
Once I got my cards settled in, I ordered my go-to drink: Cold brew topped with four pumps of white mocha sauce. I placed my order through the Mobile Order & Pay 2.0 feature, which gave me four options to pick up my order. Although, the options vary depending on the closest branch near you.
There’s the usual In-store pickup where you head straight to the pickup counter for your order. Yes, you won’t get in line anymore. When I tried this pickup option, everyone gave me looks when I went past the queue and headed straight to ask the Barista about my order. I had the audacity to ask about my drink because the app notified me when the order was ready.
When I got my drink, I walked out of the store feeling ravished. It felt like I was in a slow-mo montage of a coming-of-age film where the protagonist suddenly did something extraordinary. Frankly, this is my favorite pickup option. It makes so much sense to just get your orders if you can walk inside. And that gives you extra steps for your smartwatch to count. Get moving, people!
But if you don’t like the hassle of scanning your QR codes and getting your temperature checked, or the usual mumbo-jumbo you encounter inside a store, there are other pickup options outside.
Just wait outside
My other favorite option was the Outdoor pickup, which I chose when I was passing by Starbucks The Grove — my favorite branch in Pasig. I was dead-tired from a weekend night-out with my friends at Okada Manila, and the all-night casino adventure bled through a Monday morning.
I was on my way home, ready for work. Then, I realized I badly need the good ol’ Barista Drink. Nothing can beat an americano topped with white mocha sauce splashed with sub-breve (and no water!). Especially when it comes to waking you and your senses up. More importantly, you can have it served iced or hot depending on your preferences.
I placed my order when I was already in Arcovia City, a kilometer away from The Grove by Rockwell. Apparently, you can’t order ahead for an Outdoor pickup if you’re 3 kilometers away, which I tried to do when I was still in Taguig. So you have to be close to the branch if you want to place your order.
I tried to do the math in my head, calculating if I can pull over for a minute while I wait for my order. But I’m bad at numbers so I went ahead. The app said the order will be ready in five to six minutes anyway.
I pulled over when I arrived at the branch, and I didn’t wait long enough for one of my favorite baristas to come out to my chosen pickup point and hand me my order.
Stay in your car
I hate parking. Or wasting the time spent trying to park properly in between enormous SUVs. Or finding a spot to park your vehicle. This is why I don’t understand the Curbside pickup option, where the barista locates your designated parking slot and gives your order while practicing social and safe distancing.
I tried the pickup option in Starbucks Sierra Valley — a humongous, stand-alone branch with a massive parking space and drive-thru option found east of Metro Manila.
If you’re in a time crunch, this option really doesn’t make sense. But if you have a few moments to spare and you don’t want to get out of your vehicle for safety measures against the COVID-19 (and its variants), then the Curbside pickup is the way to go.
Frankly speaking, it doesn’t work for me. I know having your order brought to you is part of the experience, but I value my time. And it was against my morals to just sit inside my car and wait for the barista to come out and bring my order. In my head, they could be doing more valuable things than going outside the store, when I can pick up my order at their counter.
The In-store pickup is the fastest option in my experience, and I feel good doing the task instead of sitting and waiting around. I guess it’s my can-do attitude speaking, but that’s how I’m really built.
Drive through it
Now, there’s another option to get your order: Drive-thru pickup. You just have to line up in a queue of cars and wait for your turn. Like the Curbside pickup option, I didn’t like the Drive-thru pickup for one reason: It takes too long to get through the drive-thru window.
People are afraid to get out of their vehicles because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that’s valid. That’s why there are plenty of cars lining up to get their caffeine fix. I spent roughly 30 minutes waiting for my turn, which annoyed me since it would’ve been faster if I chose the In-store or Outdoor pickup.
Making life less hectic
Regardless of my rants and experience, the Mobile Order & Pay 2.0 lets you get your favorite treats and beverages conveniently. In the way you like it.
While I’ve loved the In-store and Outdoor pick-up because they work well with my personality and lifestyle, I know some people (read: friends) would enjoy the Curbside and Drive-thru pickup. Especially since they’re cautious about the pandemic.
Not that I’m not wary of the virus being out there, I just value my time because every second counts. If I wanted to waste my time waiting, I would’ve lined up inside.
Nevertheless, the rehashed feature is worth giving a try. Through the Starbucks app, you can customize your orders. Just like your baristas, the app can modify the size, the number of espresso shots, dairy selection, and various options for your order. All done with just a single tap on your smartphone.
Frankly speaking, the Mobile Pay & Order 2.0 made my life easier especially when I’m in a hurry to get a caffeine fix. Not all days can be spent brewing your coffee, living in a slowed-down lifestyle. Some days, we just need to get through it, and Starbucks knows how to accompany me through those days.
The ABIZO OFW app helps monitor and respond to OFWs’ needs
Local government agencies have adopted the app, too!
Being apart from our loved ones can make us anxious about their safety as they live and work abroad. Now, families can rest easy with a new mobile app called ABIZO OFW — which is currently backed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
The app offers peace of mind to both Filipinos working overseas as well as their families with its real-time update to help monitor their situations across different countries. It allows OFWs to send out real-time emergency alerts and incident reports, as well as update their contact information and participate in surveys that would help government agencies provide timely responses to their concerns.
Moreover, the platform has an integrated call-center service for emergency responses. This service coordinates with other government agencies and international service providers to offer fast solutions, especially against abusive and dangerous working conditions.
There’s also a Pilot Red Button — a feature that, with a single tap on the mobile app, generates a simulation of the communication process of a request for assistance. This is to establish benchmark parameters and conduct user experience research, which will aid in the management and provision of critical support for OFWs who are working in hazardous conditions outside the Philippines.
These government agencies can provide timely responses to a user’s concern sent through the app: POEA, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Philippine Overseas Labor & Office (POLO), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
The ABIZO OFW App is free to download via the Apple App Store and Google’s Play Store.
TikTok wants to get into streaming with TikTok Live Studio
Ongoing experiment rolls out to few thousand users
Everyone’s getting into streaming these days. Since the pandemic started, people at home have figured out more ways to either make money or keeping themselves entertained while at home. As such, streaming platforms — like Twitch, YouTube, and Facebook Gaming — erupted in popularity. Everyone, including platforms themselves, wants to get into the lucrative industry. As confirmed by a new experiment, TikTok is joining that growing group.
Spotted by streaming news reporter Zach Bussey, TikTok has quietly released its own streaming platform called TikTok Live Studio. Currently still in an experimental phase, the software allows TikTok users to broadcast apps and games to TikTok.
If you’re familiar with streaming software, TikTok’s software has the same functions. It allows users to monitor their chat, set up scenes, and control streaming quality options. Users can stream in portrait, landscape, or from their mobile device.
— Zach Bussey (@zachbussey) December 16, 2021
The report states that the software shares the same code as OBS, one of the most popular streaming software available today. In essence, it’s an OBS fork.
OBS is open-source and available for other software companies to use or customize. However, the developer still requires other companies to comply with certain guidelines. Ben Torell, an OBS developer, said that the current state of TikTok Live Studio does not comply with those guidelines and is, therefore, an illegal fork of OBS. Just last month, Streamlabs, another popular software, was found guilty of doing the same.
TikTok Live Studio is still experimental. The company rolled the software out to only a few thousand users in a few countries for testing. Though it does not portray what TikTok streaming might look like, it shows that TikTok is taking the huge market seriously.
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