UST gets grant from Accenture; CICS to put up IoT Lab as part of industry innovation initiatives

The University of Santo Tomas, through the College of Information and Computing Sciences (CICS) and the DOST-TOMASInno Center, received funding for industry innovation initiatives and healthcare startups from Accenture. The grant was formally turned over by technology and consulting multinational company to UST on August 24, 2021, through a virtual presser attended by Accenture and University officials.

Vice-Rector for Research and Innovation Prof. Maribel G. Nonato, Ph.D., represented UST while the Accenture Technology Lead for the Philippines, Africa, and Asia-Pacific Ms. Ambe C. Tierro led the Accenture group.

The primary beneficiary, the CICS, has a line-up of projects, one of which is the forthcoming Internet of Things (IoT) Laboratory, which will be housed in the Pier Giorgio Frassati, O.P. Building. While it will remain under the administration of the CICS, the lab will also be shared with other academic units for multi-disciplinary research projects, shared CICS Dean Jerralyn T. Padua, in an online interview.

The Internet of Things is a system of interrelated computing devices (things) with the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

According to Dean Padua, “[The IoT] is important in creating a framework in distance education, with all the important components in place such as wearables [such as smartwatches], cameras, microphones, cloud storage that are all connected to a learning management system.  This technology can aid teachers in monitoring attendance, behavioral indicators, and even emotional states.  It is also helpful in analyzing data captured in the administration of practical exams and other assessments.”

Thinking fast-forward, in post-pandemic in-person classes scenario, Padua emphasized that even under such circumstance, IoT technology will remain beneficial for the University.  

It can provide interconnected emergency alert buttons in classrooms, use data from the occupancy sensors to capture actual attendance in a specific class, and generate attendance monitoring reports both for faculty members and students. Through the occupancy sensors paired with devices such as tablets or laptops, IoT-connected lights and temperature controls can also be programmed to turn off when a room is empty, which improves building efficiency and reduces energy waste.

Another emerging technology that will be developed using the grant is Extended Reality (XR), an umbrella term for immersive innovations that can merge the presentation of physical and virtual worlds. Particularly for the Enhanced Virtual Mode currently in place, instruction delivery can be aided by providing platforms to augment learning through simulated environments.

Augmented Reality (AR), which is one of the examples of XR, can present virtual information and objects overlaid on the real world through projecting computer-generated graphics onto the real environment on screen.  AR can make it easier for teachers to show virtual examples of concepts and add gaming elements to provide textbook material support.

            “We expect to complete the acquisition of the equipment such as drones, swarm robots, robotic arms, [and other learning materials] as well as the training and course content development by A.Y. 2021-2022, so that we can make it available to our students by A.Y. 2022-2023 at the latest,” shared Padua.

“The grant is expected to be the start of more collaborations with Accenture, with the goal of providing the most fitting learning environment for our students, to help them be ready to take on actual and real-life projects,” Padua said.

A multi-year program, the Accenture grant was given to ten Metro Manila-based partner institutions including UST. Aside from the CICS, the funding will also be shared with chosen healthcare startups of the UST DOST-TOMASInno Center.

Citing the need for a stronger innovation ecosystem in the country, Mr. Arvin Yason, Innovation Lead for Accenture Technology in the Philippines, explained during the virtual presser, that the grant will improve the content of the schools’ technology curriculum, fund research and publication in emerging technologies, and explore other activities that will facilitate the adoption of these technologies in the academe and in the startups they incubate.

Founded in 1989, Accenture is a multinational professional services company listed in the Fortune Global 500. Its Philippine arm employs over 50,000 people in the country. Specializing in technology services and management consulting, Accenture was recognized at the 2019 Asia Corporate Excellence & Sustainability Awards (ACES) for its commitment to grow the Information Technology and Business Process Management (IT-BPM) industry in the Philippines.

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