IT’s all systems go as PHAR Philippines launches TUBE, an in-transit media platform which offers GPS-triggered passenger information and exclusive entertainment content, in three of Metro Manila’s train systems: LRT-1, LRT-2, and MRT-3.

“The LRT-2 [system] has been operational for about a year but we’ve done some tweaking in terms of the hardware as well as the software and the new units are [now] up in the MRT-3 trains,” Prem Bhatia, managing director for Asia and CEO of PHAR Partnerships Philippines, told the media during the launch on March 27 at Penthouse 8747 in Makati City.

PHAR Partnerships is an international media and marketing agency specializing in transport and infrastructure and digital media.

Mr. Bhatia added that he expects full installation of units will be completed within the week and shortly after that they will work on installation on the LRT-1 trains. The LRT-1 project will be finished in “early July,” he said.

In all, the company aims to install over 1,000 LED screens on the three train lines, bringing information and entertainment content to the 1.3 million passengers taking the trains every day. Each train car will have “between six to 10 screens,” he said.

Some of the challenges the company addressed when putting up the system was the problems with the GPS signal “because there are parts of Manila which are ‘dark’ (no GPS signal).”

“That’s been technically quite difficult to solve but the part that we’ve spent the most amount of time on in terms of software development is the emergency messaging system,” he said.

The emergency messaging system works whenever a train breaks down (“which happens on occasion,” he said), or the station is overcrowded, or if there’s a weather issue. Mr. Bhatia said they wanted to make sure that they could “inform the passengers within seconds.”

He explained that the alerts will come from the train management which will then be passed on to them and they will then inform the passengers through the screens.

In all, the TUBE system they developed costs north of “P350 million in the development of the software, importing the screens from China, and making it custom made,” said Mr. Bhatia.

Aside from delivering passenger information, TUBE also offers exclusive content from a select roster of online content creators like Michelle Dy (known for creating lifestyle and beauty content), Richie Zamora (known for his food reviews and vlogs), and singer Julz Savard, among others.

PHAR has tapped these content creators to create 60-second videos covering a diverse range of topics including lifestyle, gaming, sports, travel, grooming, and style.

“On average, a commuter spends 60 minutes of their time every day riding the train,” said Mr. Bhatia explaining the need for entertaining content on the service.

He said that half of the content screened on the TUBE will be original and half will be ads, while a part of the screen will be dedicated to important passenger information.

Mr. Bhatia said that the Philippine-made system is starting to gain attention from other countries as well — after officially launching the system, they received “calls from two different governments” asking if they can look into installing the same system in their country’s trains.

“It would be amazing if a Filipino software started powering trains in other countries,” said Mr. Bhatia. — Zsarlene B. Chua