Sign in / Join

‘Village Base Station Project,’ ‘Siglo’ star at UP tech fair

REMOTE SIGNAL. Proponents of the Village Base Station Project at the 2017 UP Tech Fair. They aim to provide a way to communicate in areas that have little to no mobile signal or disaster-struck locations. Photo by Edd K. Usman/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – At the 2017 UP Technology Fair, students and graduates showcased their talent and inventiveness to a sizeable turnout that makes one hopeful for STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) in the Philippines.

Dr. John Richard Hizon, director of UP Engineering Electronics Electrical Institute (UP EEEI) – the fair’s organizing body – cited their prime objective: "We left our labs in Diliman to be here at [Bonifacio Global City] to share the creativity and innovation we have done at our Institute." (Read: How Diwata-2 is better than PH’s first satellite, Diwata-1)

Hizon described the fair as the "culminating activity of our centennial celebration"; that it is an acknowledgment of the work of faculty, researchers, students and staff, and a "good starting point in defining our Institute’s new direction."

The showcase revolved around the theme "Towards a New Century of Innovation and Visionary Engineering Research and Education," with the projects spanning innovations on transportation, communication, virtual reality and education to name some. Here are some of those projects, most of which are in the developmental stage:

  • "Video-Based Traffic Monitoring for Philippine Intelligent Transport System"
  • "Tanglaw (Automated Reading Tutor for Elementary Filipino Students)"
  • "Project 2: Developing Closed Captioning Systems for Philippine Languages"
  • "Room Occupant Count and Temperature Prediction Models for Optimal Heating, Ventilation and Airconditioning (HVAC) Control"
  • "VREx: Human Hands as Input Device for an Immersive Virtual Reality Experience"
  • "Resense (Resilient Sensory Swarms for Smart Energy and Environmental Monitoring)"
  • "RxBox (rural medical diagnosis)"
  • "The Village Base Station Project"
  • "Radio Frequency-Based Fault Type Classification and Impedance Estimation Models in Distribution Systems Using Phasor Measurements"
  • "Non Technical Loss Detection using Data Analytics"

The robust turnout of tech innovations from UP EEEI can partly be credited to the institute’s many state-of-the-art facilities currently in operation. These are listed below:

  • Ubiquitous Computing Laboratory (ULC)
  • Innovation Research Laboratory (IRL)
  • Robotics Automation Laboratory (RAL)
  • Power Systems Simulation Laboratory (PSSL)
  • Electric Power Research Laboratory (EPRL)
  • Power Electronics Laboratory (PEL)
  • Wireless Communications Engineering Laboratory (WCEL)
  • Digital Signal Processing (DSP) Laboratory
  • Analog Devices Microelectronics Lab (uLab)
  • Solar Laboratory-Smart Grid Research Center (SOLAR-SGRC)
  • Computer Networks Laboratory (CNL)

The Village Base Station Project

The project aims to set up communications facilities in areas with no mobile signal that are resilient enough to remain operational in times of disasters and emergencies. Among the project’s biggest goal is to help first responders and people looking for loved ones to still be able to communicate – even when disaster strikes.

A facility will include a base station, a solar panel, a battery, and a type of satellite communication system called a VSAT (very-small-aperture-terminal) link.

CLOSER LOOK. This is what’s inside the base station that the Village Base Station Project plans to deploy. Photo by Edd K. Usman/Rappler

Ronel Vincent Vistil, a graduate student of UP EEEI and among the proponents of the project, said the deployment of the "base station will be done in areas not reached by the traditional telecommunications companies [and in] rural and remote areas with no mobile signals."

The base station is designed to be versatile as it can serve as a stand-alone communications equipment or as an "add-on," which means it can connect to existing telco networks in target communities. Without a satellite link, the base station can only provide communication within a sitio; but with a satellite link, can also go beyond a sitio’s boundaries.

The project is ready to be deployed, and the team will be setting up a base station in the municipalities of San Luis and Dingalan in Aurora as pilot areas by August this year. They declined, however, to say how much would it cost to deploy it, emphasizing they still have to determine the final pricing.

"Aside from the technology, we also have partners to study social and economic impacts of the base station," said Vistil. For some of the areas they are targeting, the base stations offer the first time that people in that community will have mobile signal, he said. This is why, he said, he wants the team to also study the effects of the technology they’re bringing on people’s relationships, the local economy, and local trade.

The project started in 2015 and is a collaboration with the University of California Berkeley in the United States, and is funded by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).


There was also "Siglo" (Century), the 92-kilogram electric car that won second place at the Shell Eco-Marathon Asia 2017 at the Changi Exhibition Center in Singapore. Siglo’s 20 proponents won themselves US$2,000 for the car’s feat.

SPEEDING AHEAD. The Philippines’ ‘Siglo’ electric car bags 2nd place honors at 2017 Shell Eco-Marathon event. Photo by Edd K. Usman/Rappler

Siglo – named after UP EEEI’s 100 years of existence – can run at a top speed of 32 kilometers per hour.

Dennis Cabildo of UP EEEI, one of the proponents, said Vietnam’s electric car entry won the Singapore Shell Eco-Marathon race. The winner car’s energy consumption was at 108 kilometers per kilowatt hour, barely edging the Siglo’s 107 kilometers per kilowatt hour rating.

Meralco funded the project with a fund of around P1.2 million.

Their main objective, he said, is "to develop an electric motor vehicle," noting that a study showed that around 2018, a million electric cars would be sold around the world.

Charging of the car’s battery, he said, can go from zero to 100% full in about 4 hours and can run on one fully-charged battery from Manila to Clark Field in Pampanga.

Project 2: Developing Closed Captioning for Philippine Languages

Another great entry is one that will benefit people who are hard of hearing: "Project 2: Developing Closed Captioning for Philippine Languages," a project that will automate captioning for television programs.

A law had already been proposed in Congress for closed captioning of television programs, said one of the project heads, Dan Antonio Reyes. While options for closed captioning in English are already prevalent, Filipino and local dialects in the country are not, Reyes said. "We are doing not just Filipino," he said.

He also said that captioning benefits not just those who have trouble hearing; captioning is also a way to help viewers better understand what is being said on the TV.

At present, he said, they have made 80% progress for Filipino captions.

"We are laying down the foundation. We hope others will continue our project," he said, indicating a long-term effort to achieve automatic captioning. Reyes and his co-proponents have partnered with local station TV5 for the project. –