PNR starts AI surveillance system to track potential COVID-19 carriers

Marje Pelayo   •   November 13, 2020   •   366

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine National Railways (PNR) is now focusing its development program into using state-of-the-art technologies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In line with this, the agency formally launched its Artificial Intelligence Surveillance System and Command Center as part of its digitalization strategy for 2020. 

The PNR had a pilot run of its AI surveillance system to monitor the situations at train tracks during the onslaught of the recent Typhoon Ulysses.

To detect potential COVID-19 carriers, the new and advanced system deployed in 17 stations and 15 level crossings, is equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) cameras that are capable of self learning and are able to recognize faces. 

Thermographic fever screening cameras are installed primarily to detect passengers with possible COVID-19 infection by scanning their temperature. 

Aside from temperature, the system can also detect if a person is wearing a facemask or face shield, and will notify the operator if passengers are not following social distancing protocols. 

Also, its ‘appearance search technology’ feature enables the system to locate individuals within the facility, and an Identity Correlation Report that lists all locations where a potential infected person has been, can be generated for contact tracing.

Its network is connected through a 10G fiber backbone and in case of power interruption, the command center can rely on standby power back-up systems for continuous operation. 

In a statement, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade said that he is “deeply proud and inspired of the significant milestones that the PNR has reached – given the toughest of times”. MNP / Raymund David

PNR’s new trains from Indonesia now fully operational

Marje Pelayo   •   January 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine National Railway (PNR) inaugurated on Thursday (January 28) three new diesel hydraulic locomotives (DHL) with 15 passenger coaches that were built in Indonesia.

The new train sets are designed to provide commuters smoother and more convenient rides from the Tutuban Station in Manila to Los Baños in Laguna.

With the addition of the new train sets, the PNR Metro Commuter Line now targets to serve a total of 140,000 passengers daily, doubling its existing capacity from 48,000 to 60,000 per day.

Thursday’s inaugural run from the PNR Dela Rosa Station in Makati to the Manila Tutuban Station was graced by Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade, PNR General Manager Junn Magno as well as representatives from the Republic of Indonesia Embassy in Manila, and representatives from PT Industri Kereta Api (PT-INKA) the firm that made the train sets.

Secretary Tugade said the inaugural run of the new train sets assures the riding public of safe, convenient, and comfortable travels.

“Ngayon po, patuloy na binabago natin ang PNR. ‘Kailan darating ang bagong tren?’ Ngayon po, dumating na ang bagong tren. At ‘Kailan naman natin masasakyan ang bagong tren?’ Ngayon po, pasisinayaan at sasakyan natin ang mga bagong tren,” Secretary Tugade said.

The new train sets are part of the PNR Management Re-fleeting Strategy which involves the delivery of train sets composed of 37 cars and three locomotives procured in 2018.

Meanwhile, GM Magno explained that the train sets are composed of three diesel hydraulic locomotives and 15 coaches equivalent to nine train sets.

Each train can accommodate 1,330 passengers per set in a single trip but due to physical distance the capacity is scaled down to 700 passengers per trip.

The train sets have a maximum design speed of 120 kilometers per hour, with high clearance for flooded tracks. 

Each train set features an interior access to the engine room, the first of its kind for the PNR fleet. 

The train sets are also equipped with 36,000 kilocalories per hour of air conditioning in each coach that is suitable for tropical countries like the Philippines.

Among its main features is the diesel hydraulic engine which can run even in floodwater.

“Itong mga tren na ito lahat ng equipment nilipat natin lahat sa locomotive pati mga generator so kapag tinignan nyo ilalim nyan wala nang laman,” Magno said.

“So pwede siyang pumunta sa baha hanggang 18 inches na tubig above nung top nung rail,” he added.

The official, meanwhile, asks residents living near the train rails not to throw anything on the passing trains.

“Iyong mga tren po natin although matitibay iyan mga bago yan hindi na nababasag ang salamin,” Magno explained.

“Huwag nyo na pong subukan para po sa ating nga kababayan iyan. Ipe-fence off napo namin. Maguumpisa na ang construction dito sa North-South Commuter railway. Ipe-fence off na po namin ang right of way,” he said. MNP (with inputs from Joan Nano)

Rail sector promotes use of bicycles, installs free-to-use racks at train stations

Marje Pelayo   •   July 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Community quarantine restrictions have limited the mode of transport in the country especially in Metro Manila.

For this reason, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) through its rail sector, has started installing bicycle racks at LRT-1, LRT-2, MRT-3 and Philippine National Railway (PNR) stations to promote the use of bicycles. 

Aside from convenience, DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade supports the benefit of bicycle rides to commuters and the environment. 

“I fully support the establishment of the bike lanes as this active transport mode promotes a healthy lifestyle and clean environment. We will make this protected to ensure the safety of our cyclists,” Tugade stressed.

For safety and order, cyclists are reminded of the following rules:

  • Bike racks may be used free of charge.
  • Cyclists should bring their own personal padlocks.
  • Bicycle racks may be used from 5:00AM to 8:00PM only. 
    • LRT-2 – Parked bicycles beyond 8:00PM may still be claimed until the close of operations at 10:00PM.
    • PNR – Claiming of bikes is within operating hours.
  • No personal belongings such as bags or carry-ons should be left with the bicycle while parked at the rack.

Bicycle racks already in operation may be found in the following stations:

LRT-1 line

  • Central
  • Libertad Stations
  • EDSA Taft 

LRT-2 line

  • Legarda station 

MRT-3 line

  • North Avenue
  • Quezon Avenue
  • GMA Kamuning

The DOTr said cyclists are allowed to bring their folded bicycles inside the train car with a fare from origin to destination equivalent to one person, and subject to disinfection.

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Artificial intelligence posing new challenges for cybersecurity in 2020

UNTV News   •   January 16, 2020

By Marc Arcas

Photo showing a hacker writing computer code on his laptop. EFE-EPA/Oskar Burgos/File

San Francisco – The ability of artificial intelligence to absorb and process enormous quantities of data has a dark side when used by cyber-pirates to create new “malware,” a trend that is already evident and which will only increase this year.

In the same way that artificial intelligence has huge creative potential to give machines a way to emulate human learning, this very fact also confers upon AI great destructive capacity and the ability to do harm, for example in the preparation and dissemination of viruses, Trojan Horses and other malign software.

“Cyber-pirates will use artificial intelligence more and more to create malware that will be more destructive,” the social director of Microsoft’s Software Engineering division, Glaucia Faria Young, told EFE in an interview.

“This is something that has already started happening and it breaks through the security models we’ve traditionally used. They are more complex attacks and more broadly distributed. And, it’s easier for them to remain undetected,” she said.

AI systems are able to increase the speed and precision of cyberattacks and, at the same time, fool conventional anti-virus defenses, since the latter are programmed to look for specific code elements that are not necessarily obvious in AI programs.

One example of this is the ability for automatic learning to spread a virus widely without causing any damage and without raising anyone’s suspicions, but it suddenly activates itself when it infects the desired equipment, such as the computers of a specific firm, individual or public institution.

In contrast to traditional malware, which harms all devices through which is passes and, thus, is easier to detect and halt, an AI system remains “dormant” until it reaches its objective, recognizes it (via facial or acoustic recognition, for instance) and activates itself.

“The way we can counterattack is to also use AI to detect attacks,” said Young, who emphasized the potential of this technology to identify patterns and anomalies quickly and thoroughly among enormous quantities of data.

The team that Young heads, for example, uses its own system of automatic learning that, instead of pursuing earlier interactions of malign code, as was normally the case, operates using risk factors in analyzing about eight billion signals it receives each day.

Along with AI, the people at Microsoft responsible for cybersecurity forecast that cybercriminals will use four other types of cyberattacks in 2020 focusing on attacks on value chains if they are not coordinated, public “Clouds,” the growing fragility of passwords and the appearance of state-run operations.

Regarding value chains, analysts emphasize the importance of companies, customers and providers acting in a coordinated manner to prevent attacks, given that if just one of these actors protects itself, info-pirates can still harm them by attacking other elements in the chain.

In terms of the Cloud, this is basically a question of volume: with more companies and individuals moving toward such services, the public Cloud has become a target that looks more and more tempting for hackers.

On passwords, the debate has been ongoing for some time, although it has intensified in recent years. Despite their widespread use, they are rather inefficient and vulnerable security systems and experts recommend gradually moving to authentication models using two or more steps, including – for instance – biometric recognition.

Finally, the cybercrime activities organized by governments and state entities around the world are one of the biggest challenges facing cybersecurity authorities, since this implies a significant change in the “shape” of the enemy: It’s not about four hackers in a basement somewhere acting on their own behalf anymore but rather big state-supported and -financed cyberattack operations. EFE

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