Categories
Lifestyle On The Edge

Here’s why it pays to plan early for your next holiday

With demand – and therefore prices – for tickets surging and extended passport processing times, here’s why your holiday preparations should begin now. HomeTeamNS is offering a colourful range of  promotions to keep your holidays fuss-free!

TEXT: MELODY TAN

PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK, THE BOATHOUSE PHUKET

If your holidays in the last few years were spent on staycations (or just staying at home), it might be time to dust off your luggage and head to the money changer.

As the world settles into the endemic phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are hitting the road. A recent survey found that in the next 12 months, eight in 10 Singaporeans intended to travel for leisure, with most of them heading to Japan, Malaysia and Thailand. 

So if you want to put your passport to work during the end-of-year holidays, it’s best to plan ahead – so that you can spend your vacation relaxing (and eating, and shopping, and exploring).

CHECK THAT PASSPORT

After all that anticipation, you definitely don’t want to get to Changi Airport only to realise that your passport has less than six months’ validity.

In August, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) reminded Singaporeans who want to travel during the December school break to submit their passport applications as soon as possible, to ensure they get their passports renewed on time.

To save hassle, submit your passport applications online via the ICA website or MyICA mobile app, and collect your renewed passport from one of the 29 designated post offices. When taking your photograph, don’t forget to refer to ICA’s photo guidelines. A photo that needs to be resubmitted can delay your entire passport renewal timeline.

DON’T SKIMP ON TRAVEL INSURANCE

Due to the combination of pent-up travel demand and lack of manpower, airports around the world are experiencing higher rates of flight cancellations and delays compared to pre-pandemic days. Buying travel insurance will ensure that even if your holiday gets off to an unexpectedly late start, at least you get back some cash in return for the trouble. Most travel insurance policies cover delays starting from the six-hour mark.

Tip: Make sure to read the terms and conditions of a travel insurance policy before you buy it – some policies exclude flight delays caused by operational issues, for example, so it’s best to check before purchasing.

HomeTeamNS members enjoy a 20 per cent discount off Singlife Travel Insurance (Single Trip), with an additional 30 per cent discount for MHA Group Insurance members. All you have to do is download the HomeTeamNS Mobile App to retrieve the promo code and enjoy this perk. This discount is applicable for a single trip travel insurance only, and is valid till 31 July 2023. 

HAVE A PLAN B

The days of playing it by ear are sadly, not yet back. Due to the pandemic, tourist attractions and services globally have been affected by shortages in resources and manpower – meaning that your travel experience might be affected by circumstances outside your control. Hotels may struggle to prepare rooms in time for check-in and restaurants might be slow to prepare and serve food.

There have also been numerous closures of beloved tourist institutions. For example, the Ferris wheel in Tokyo’s Odaiba waterfront has shut down. Iconic restaurants, bookstores and theatres have all not been spared.

In addition, airline ticket prices have gone up by an estimated 25 per cent due to a variety of factors. You might find that your dream destination is no longer as affordable as before.

To avoid frustration (and disappointment) on your holiday, keep an open mind and have a Plan B ready. Plan your first choice of destination, accommodation or attraction, but research what’s nearby as well, just in case your original plans fall through.

KEEP YOUR HOLIDAY FUSS-FREE, FOR MORE FUN

Don’t want the hassle of planning and packing for a two-week itinerary? For a truly relaxed holiday option, consider a nearby getaway in Malaysia, Indonesia or Thailand.

Located in the heart of the city, Concorde Hotel Kuala Lumpur is offering HomeTeamNS members promotional room rates that start from RM250. The package includes breakfast for two persons and WiFi access.

If you enjoy driving, take an easy three-hour road trip to nearby UNESCO World Heritage Site, Melaka. Hotel Casa del Rio, which means ‘Home by the River’ in Spanish, is located in the historic town centre for convenient access to Melaka’s heritage attractions and scrumptious food offerings. HomeTeamNS members enjoy an additional 5 per cent off the hotel’s best available rates and selected room packages, as well as 10 per cent off the restaurant’s à la carte menu.

Otherwise, you can live that #beachlife over at Casa del Mar Langkawi, which is set on Instagram-worthy Pantai Cenang beach. Casa del Mar, which means – you guessed it – ‘Home by the Sea’, is a Mediterranean-style resort only 10 minutes away from Langkawi Airport, so you can start your vacation ASAP. When the sun goes down, don’t forget to check out the array of restaurants and the night market located nearby. For stays between 1 November to 15 December 2022, HomeTeamNS members enjoy 10 per cent off the best available rates.

Overlooking Kuta Beach, The Boathouse Phuket is offering HomeTeamNS members 10 per cent off the best available room rates, till 23 December 2022.

For luxe living by the sea, The Residence Bintan is offering HomeTeamNS members 15 per cent off room rates with complimentary ferry to resort land transfers from Sundays to Thursday (excluding public holidays) and 10 per cent off recreational activities.

If you’re itching to go further afield, there’s always Hard Rock Hotel Bali in the beating heart of Kuta, which is synonymous in Bali with shopping, eating and entertainment. Check out the exclusive room rates for HomeTeamNS members ranging between IDR 1,225,000 per night for a Deluxe Room to IDR 1,475,000 per night for a Deluxe Premium Room. Great accommodation deals also await HomeTeamNS members heading to Hard Rock Hotel Penang and Hard Rock Hotel Pattaya.

With a little bit of preparation, you can ensure that your year-end holiday is lots of fun – and has none of the fuss.

For the latest updates on HomeTeamNS promotions and events, visit our website and Facebook page.

Categories
On The Edge

Fuel for thought: Do electrified vehicles make financial sense?

With the volatility of fuel prices and improving charging infrastructure, is this a good time to switch to an electrified car?

TEXT: LEOW JU-LEN

PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK

Have you started to wince each time you fill up your car? Fuel prices have started to drop after hitting near record highs recently, but motorists can’t be blamed for feeling concerned about volatile prices.

Assuming 1 litre of 95 octane fuel costs about S$2.70, and the typical driver in Singapore covers 14,600km a year, using a reasonably economical car that covers 12km per litre, the annual fuel bill would be about S$3,285.

Following some simple fuel-saving tips would help reduce fuel costs to some extent, but an electrified vehicle could really help car owners reduce their fuel bills significantly, especially if  owners opt for an electric vehicle (EV).

According to the Land Transport Authority’s online fuel cost calculator, the BYD Atto 3 EV, travelling 14,600km per year, would cost about S$1,218 a year to charge — even if the driver only uses the more expensive Direct Current (DC) public fast chargers (at an assumed rate of $0.55/kWh).

AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME?

A 3D rendering of an electric vehicle showing its relatively simple layout, with the large battery pack spread out low between the wheels to reduce the car's centre of gravity. In this example, the car is equipped with 2 electric motors driving the front and rear wheels.

While it may be too early to say that we’ve reached a tipping point, electrified vehicles are becoming more popular on Singapore roads. Land Transport Authority (LTA) figures show that EVs and cars with some sort of hybrid technology are slowly gaining market share.

By the end of June 2022, these electrified cars numbered 61,705, up 11.1 per cent compared to the start of the year. Over the same six-month period the overall car population grew just 0.45 per cent.

While cars that run purely on petrol or diesel still dominate, their numbers are starting to decline, with 581,801 here as of 30 June 2022, down from 586,512 at the start of the year.

Electrified cars essentially run on a combination of internal-combustion engines and battery power, or pure electricity. The same basic principle applies – the more electricity you use to power a car, the less fossil fuel you have to burn.

DIFFERENT SHADES OF ELECTRIFICATION

Full hybrids have a large electric motor and battery that can drive the car by itself, but the car's internal-combustion engine still provides a lot of the system's power.

After decades of development, hybrids have finally hit the mainstream. These consist of three types: Mild hybrids, full hybrids (also known as self-charging hybrids) and plug-in hybrids.

Mild hybrids similarly to conventional car with an internal-combustion engine, offering only a slight improvement in fuel consumption. They typically have a small starter-generator that stores electricity whenever the car slows down and uses it to give the engine a mild assist at low speeds.

Full hybrids have a larger motor that can drive the car by itself, along with a larger battery to power it, but an internal-combustion engine still does the heavy lifting. The setup can be effective, however. The Toyota Yaris Cross (a compact Sport Utility Vehicle) can squeeze 26.3km from 1 litre of petrol.

Nissan’s e-Power system uses an electric motor to propel the car exclusively. But it has a small petrol engine that is used only to recharge the batteries. Nissan says that gives drivers a car that feels and drives like an EV, but one that can be quickly refuelled at any petrol station. The Nissan Kicks e-Power, a family SUV, gets a fuel-consumption rating of 20.4km per litre.

UNPLUG AND PLAY

Plug-in hybrids are essentially short-range EVs with an internal-combustion engine for long-distance drives and maximum acceleration. Some cover 30km to 40km purely on electric power, but newer models can go much further.

The Lexus NX 450h+ for instance, has covered 60km on a full charge in local testing, while Mercedes-Benz claims some of its plug-ins are good for nearly 100km. The idea is to drive to work and back, plug your car in and repeat. Longer road trips are still possible but in such cases the brunt of the work will be done by the internal-combustion engine.

Full EVs that don’t need daily charging. Most cover 300km (enough for about one week’s driving here) with ease, and many are good for at least 400km on a single charge. Mercedes says its flagship electric car, the EQS, can travel 770km without stopping.

IS THE PRICE RIGHT?

Whether an EV would make it worth your while to bid farewell to petrol power, many offer upfront savings. The Vehicular Emissions Scheme (VES) provides tax incentives of S$15,000 or S$25,000 for cars that emit the least pollution (the cleaner the car, the greater the rebate), and though emissions from power generation are factored into the calculations, most EVs qualify for a rebate.

On top of that, an EV Early Adoption Incentive (EEAI) worth up to S$20,000 is in place to narrow the gap between battery-powered cars and their combustion rivals.

Many hybrids are eligible for a S$15,000 VES rebate, but only EVs qualify for the maximum S$25,000 incentive. Together with the EEAI, owners of some EVs can enjoy combined rebates of S$45,000.

DOLLARS AND SENSE

With Certificate of Entitlement prices also at or near all-time highs, whether or not it makes financial sense to switch cars now just to save on energy costs is an open question. However, if you were planning to buy a new car anyway it might be worth giving an electrified one serious consideration.

A full hybrid will save the most at the pumps for any driver who feels less than confident about finding a charging station.

On the other hand, EV charging has started to become ubiquitous, with 250 locations around the island offering a place to plug in. DC charging can add a week’s worth of distance to an EV battery in less than an hour, meaning a weekly stop at a mall for a meal could be all it takes to recharge an EV. Tesla says its proprietary Superchargers can push 120km into its cars in as little as 5 minutes.

Is it time to make the switch to electric? Even if not today, then perhaps soon. The government plans to have 60,000 EV charging points across Singapore by 2030, with 40,000 of them in public car parks.

The two latest next-gen HomeTeamNS clubhouses, Khatib and Bedok Reservoir, will soon be EV-friendly for Home Team NSmen and their loved ones too. 

For the latest updates on HomeTeamNS promotions and events, visit our website and Facebook page.

Categories
On The Edge

What to do if you click on a suspicious link

What should you do if you’ve unintentionally clicked on a link that could cause you to fall victim to an online scam?

TEXT: MELODY TAN

IMAGES: SHUTTERSTOCK

By now, most of us are more than familiar with scams like bank-related phishing attempts, fake tech support and investment fraud – the top three most common scams in Singapore. After all, they’ve been highlighted in the news and other media.

But even the most well-informed netizen might still fall for a suspicious link, especially when distracted or tired. According to author and psychologist Maria Konnikova, anybody can be a successful scam target under the right circumstances.

Even if one doesn’t fall for the scam entirely, just clicking on the link could lead to unwanted consequences. In the worst case scenario, losses can occur even without giving away one’s personal details or passwords. Since January this year, over S$7.1 million has been lost in Singapore to tech support scams, in which victims granted scammers remote access to their devices.

So what can you do after you’ve clicked on a link that turns out to be a phishing website, or a suspicious download? There are steps you can take – as long as you act immediately.

CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD

If you’ve logged into an Internet banking link that turns out to be a phishing imitation, try to immediately change your password on the legitimate banking app or website. Every second counts in a situation like this, as scammers can siphon out your money in a matter of minutes.

If you’re in the habit of recycling passwords, make sure to change your password everywhere else that you’ve used it. Set up a new, individual password for each app or website. Tools like password managers to help with this. 

SCAN YOUR SYSTEM

If you’ve been duped into installing any apps or programmes, uninstall them immediately.

Next, scan your device with anti-virus software to ensure that the link you’ve clicked on – or the attachment you opened – hasn’t managed to install nasty malware.

Often, scammers may send out e-mails with links that pretend to be for online shopping deals or interesting news articles. These lead to websites which require you to click a download link to view videos or access more content – and thus unwittingly install malware on your device. The malware creates a backdoor that allows scammers to remotely access your computer, collecting passwords, files and information that can be used to steal your money and even your identity.

While you scan your computer, make sure it isn’t connected to the Internet so that scammers can’t access it or infect other devices in your network.

TELL YOUR BANK AND WATCH YOUR FINANCES

If your banking or credit card information has been handed over to the scammers, notify your bank so that they can take steps to safeguard your money.

This can include freezing your accounts and ensuring that transactions are allowed to be processed only when the customer confirms their legitimacy, or notifying the customers of any significant changes in their banking activities.

The Anti-Scam Command (ASC) of the Singapore Police Force (SPF)’s Commercial Affairs Department works closely with financial institutions on initiatives like Project Frontier, which enables bank accounts to be swiftly frozen if they are suspected to be involved in scammers’ operations. This has helped in the recovery of over S$200 million for scam victims since 2019, and the ASC is now working to bring on board other bank representatives by the third quarter of this year.

After notifying the bank, it’s best to keep an eye on your accounts and credit cards over the next few weeks. Scrutinise even the most minor transactions to ensure everything is accounted for, as scammers may start with small amounts before working their way up to larger ones.

MAKE A POLICE REPORT

If you’ve lost money to the scammers, file a police report. Even if your money can’t be clawed back, you’ll be alerting the authorities to the presence of a scam – and you might be able to help others in danger of being scammed.

In addition, if the link you clicked on was a fraudulent imitation of a real website or company, let them know so they can warn their customers or clients. You can also report the phishing attempt to the Singapore Computer Emergency Response Team (SingCERT).

DOWNLOAD SCAMSHIELD

Finally, download ScamShield to lower the chances of this from happening again.

Developed by the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) and the Government Technology Agency, ScamShield uses artificial intelligence algorithms to filter out SMSes and phone calls that are made and sent by scammers. The AI algorithm catches SMSes that are likely to be spam and filters them into a junk SMS folder while also sending them to the NCPC and SPF to be collated.

ScamShield is also able to compare incoming call phone numbers against a list that is regularly updated by the SPF to determine if the number has previously been used for illegal purposes. If the answer is yes, the call is blocked. To help fight scammers, users can also report scam messages from popular chat apps like WhatsApp, Wechat and Viber using ScamShield’s in-app reporting tool.

Remember, while clicking on the wrong link can happen to anyone, staying calm and taking action can help prevent you from losing it all. It’s also important to be aware of the common scams in Singapore that begin with a click of a link. Here are some tips on how you can verify the links before falling victim to a phishing scam.

Categories
Club Buzz Featured On The Edge

The evolution of HomeTeamNS cohesion activities

The team behind HomeTeamNS cohesion activities has adapted its programming to suit all requirements – online and offline, masks on to masks off – when it comes to bonding activities. Here’s how they did it.

TEXT: MELODY TAN

PHOTOS: HOMETEAMNS

If you’ve ever wondered who the mastermind behind an especially fun or creative HomeTeamNS cohesion activity is, meet Ms Nur’Atiqah Aidah.

Ms Nur’Atiqah is an Executive Cohesion Accounts Specialist with HomeTeamNS. Along with her teammates, she oversees all cohesion and non-cohesion programmes across the different HomeTeamNS clubhouses for agencies affiliated with the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Having worked at HomeTeamNS for four years and counting, Ms Nur’Atiqah is an old hand at planning HomeTeamNS cohesion activities – sometimes with a twist, if one is required.

She explains that all programmes are carefully tailored according to the goals of the client. As part of her role, she also offers advice on suitable activities, based on her and her team’s accumulated experience of organising HomeTeamNS cohesion programmes over the years.

“Clients are able to customise their activities,” she shared. “For example, we’ve issued blindfolds to participants for high element courses, just to ensure that our clients will have a different experience while doing a familiar activity.”

ADAPTING QUICKLY TO PANDEMIC NORMS

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Ms Nur’Atiqah estimated that up to 95 per cent of HomeTeamNS cohesion and non-cohesion programming took place on-site – a practice that was no longer tenable as the pandemic took hold and safe distancing measures were imposed to prevent transmission of the virus.

Despite the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, Ms Nur’Atiqah and her team made sure that cohesion activities could still continue – albeit in a different form. Everyone stayed calm and kept going in their original roles, even as the future of cohesion programming seemed uncertain and their work routines were completely reshaped.

“We had to adapt quickly to move our programming online,” she recalled. “We had to pick up new skills, acquire new software and also soft skills, so that our programming could be delivered online.”

Even for the activities that could still be carried out offline, there were challenges to deal with, like minimising the risk of COVID-19 transmission: “We had sanitise our equipment more frequently and deploy more manpower for our programmes.”

EVOLVING INTO A POST-PANDEMIC REALITY

Like many other countries, Singapore has settled into a new normal, two years after the start of the pandemic. With a widely vaccinated population and a better understanding of the virus, Singapore has lifted many of its original safe distancing measures – a welcome move for those looking forward to the return of real-life cohesion activities.

Ms Nur’Atiqah confirmed that business-as-usual cohesion programming has come roaring back – with some slight adjustments. “We’ve resumed our programmes as per normal currently, but for mask-on programmes, we’ve had to take into consideration the type of activities that can be conducted with masks.”

For her, the fact that some units still prefer to hold online cohesion activities comes as a bonus: “That would mean that our services have expanded to both online and on-site.”

Looking to the future, Ms Nur’Atiqah feels that the pandemic has enhanced the cohesion programming team’s skillsets, as some of the skills they’ve picked up while conducting activities online – such as more effectively engaging their clients – are also proving useful in real life interactions.

Overall, she believes the team has also become far more flexible in how they respond to changes. “We’ve learnt to always be on our toes. Regulations change and we have to adapt, so our team has been in go-go-go mode since the pandemic.”

BUILDING A SENSE OF CAMARADERIE

Mr Mohamad Hafiz of the Singapore Police Force’s Central Division (A Div) is a veteran of HomeTeamNS cohesion programming, as the A Div has engaged Ms Nur’Atiqah’s team on multiple occasions for activities targeting its Police NSmen (PNSmen).

Complimenting the team as being passionate and dedicated to facilitating programmes, he said: “HomeTeamNS has managed to tailor, customise and inject various elements to their programmes to match the profiles and characters of our PNSmen. There was never an activity which was not well received. Most importantly, our objective of building a strong camaraderie amongst our PNSmen is well achieved through all their team building and cohesion packages.”

He added, “HomeTeamNS has proven to be a highly reliable, independent and proactive organisation that is willing to go the extra mile in facilitating and meeting customers’ expectations. Working with the team has been a pleasure. I would strongly recommend HomeTeamNS as your go-to destination for team-building and cohesion programmes.”

GROWING AS A TEAM WITH HOMETEAMNS

You can’t teach team spirit – but you can develop it, through stimulating and thought-provoking activities designed to encourage cohesion and camaraderie. As a provider of corporate teambuilding services, HomeTeamNS offers a selection of packages to suit your team’s specific needs.

For a hassle-free experience, choose from the different options among the Corporate Fixed Packages, such as the Shoot-off, Shoot-out in which teams engage in rousing competitive rounds of Archery Tag and Laser Quest. Let your inner child loose with Uno Bowl, which features giant UNO cards (perfect for the ‘gram) paired with bowling and ice-breaker games, or bring your own children for Family Day – a customisable package that can be constructed to suit all budgets, activity levels and demographics. All fixed packages are equipped with a programme facilitator, safety officers, bottled water and a photographer to capture your team’s most memorable moments.

If you have something more specific in mind, try out a Corporate Customised Package instead, which allows you to select from a wide variety of activities to fulfil your team-building objectives. Dodgeball, drumming, a rope challenge course, human foosball, pool rafting, mixology – the choice is entirely yours.

And for Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) agencies, the cohesion activities at HomeTeamNS are a homecoming of sorts – a comfortable, welcoming place to come together as a team and engage in the exciting work of team building. Clocking in at different budgets and provisions, the cohesion packages range from no-frills to upsized and combo, with over 40 activities to pick from. Paintball, pedal gokarting, pool, futsal and even terrarium making – forging stronger team bonds has never been more fun. 

Categories
Featured On The Edge

10 fuel-saving hacks that actually work

Pump prices may be high but follow these simple fuel-saving tips to wring the maximum mileage from every drop of petrol.

TEXT: LEOW JU-LEN

PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK

From setting off early on your journey to servicing your car regularly and enjoying fuel discounts at Sinopec for HomeTeamNS members, here’s a list of simple and effective fuel-saving tips that can put a significant dent in your monthly expenses.

Some of these fuel-saving tips apply to the driver, some to the car, and others are just a matter of exploiting the fuel-saving features that the latest car models come with.

1. BE ORIGINAL

The first thing to do is: Nothing. That means keeping your car in its original condition. That’s because adding an aftermarket rear wing or body kit may make your car look cooler, but they are detrimental to aerodynamic efficiency (how slippery a car is when it moves through the air). Upsizing the wheels and tyres increases rolling resistance (the amount of energy your car needs to travel at a given speed).

Likewise, modifying the engine to increase power can raise the consumption of fuel. Just leave your car the same as it was when it left the factory if you want to keep it in the condition it was optimised for. How easy is that!

2. SAVE MONEY ON FUEL

Great news for HomeTeamNS members: Show your digital membership card at Sinopec along with your driving license and you’ll enjoy upfront fuel discounts — get up to 24 per cent off your petrol bill at Sinopec’s Bukit Timah service station and 23 per cent off at the Yishun and new Woodlands stations. The single easiest way to stretch your fuel dollar is to save money when you buy it.

3. GIVE THOSE TYRES AIR

Tyres that are even a little underinflated have more rolling resistance, and that raises fuel consumption by making the engine work harder. Be sure to check those pressures at least every other time you fill up the gas tank. That’s because air seeps out of tyres naturally, and that can cause a loss of 1 or 2 psi of pressure every month.

Fuel consumption rises as much as 0.3% for every 1% of under-inflation, so let’s work out the numbers: suppose you have a small car that returns 15km per litre of petrol on tyres that should be inflated to 32psi. If the tyres are down to 30psi after a month, the loss in pressure would reduce the fuel economy to 14.7km per litre — enough to shave 15km off a 50-litre tankful.

Properly inflated tyres are safer and last longer, too, making this hack a triple win.

4. BE SERVICE ORIENTED

Tempted to combat higher pump prices by skipping servicing? Don’t. Lots of small mechanical flaws can raise fuel consumption meaningfully. Clogged filters, fouled spark plugs, engine oil that’s past its best, misaligned wheels, and the list goes on. These are all picked up and sorted during servicing, so take your car to the workshop on time if you want to keep it running efficiently.

5. SET OFF EARLY

Rushing to your appointment is not only stressful, but it’s also bound to raise your fuel bill because it requires you to zoom along as quickly as you can. Try leaving five to 10 minutes earlier than you usually would, to give yourself time to get there without driving fast. It’s also safer, and you’ll be surprised at how much better your mood behind the wheel will be, too.

6. BACK OFF A LITTLE

Fuel-efficient driving isn’t about going slowly, but about going steadily. Accelerating takes energy, and braking removes kinetic energy, so both of those things are detrimental to fuel consumption. Instead, try to get up to a steady speed and do your best to maintain it.

Two things will help with that. Try to drive with a sense of anticipation and look further up the road than usual. That way you’ll be more aware of what’s going on around your car and can slip smoothly around upcoming hazards before you run into them.

Second, try keeping a bigger gap between yourself and the car ahead than you’re used to. The extra space will let you keep going at a smooth pace while the car ahead speeds up and slows down with the rest of traffic. It gives you a better view of what’s up the road, too, which is great for safety.

7. BE AN ECO-MANIAC

Saving fuel is sometimes a matter of pushing the right buttons in your car. Specifically, if it comes with different driving modes, try engaging the Eco setting. This turns down the throttle response (that is, the relation between how far you press the accelerator pedal and how much the engine responds) and makes the transmission change up the gears sooner. That might make your car seem sluggish, but full power is still available when you need it.

Eco mode sometimes reduces air-conditioning power, but some cars allow you to tweak that setting and keep the cold air going.

8. COAST ALONG

Many modern cars have a coasting or “sailing” mode (it’s sometimes activated by engaging the Eco setting) that’s similar to slipping the car into neutral and letting it roll freely. Get up to speed, take your foot off the accelerator (and keep it off the brake) and you’ll be amazed at how far you can keep going.

Some cars, typically mild hybrids, are able to shut down their engines completely while coasting, which is a neat way to travel without using any fuel at all.

Even if your car has no coasting function, however, you can try taking your foot off the accelerator early when you know you have to slow down (say, for a red light or upcoming bend). Modern cars shut down their fuel injectors under deceleration, which also means you burn no petrol while slowing down.

9. LET SATELLITES HELP YOU

You might know your way around Singapore with your eyes closed, but it can pay to key your destination into a satellite navigation system regardless. Why? Because some cars are able to tailor their routes to different criteria, so you can choose a speedy route or a fuel-saving route.

Some cars also fetch real-time traffic data and can set a route that avoids fuel-wasting traffic jams. Even if your car doesn’t have such fancy features yet, apps like Google maps can help you to avoid congestion, too.

10. LEARN TO GAUGE YOUR SUCCESS

How to figure out if any of this is working? Let your car tell you. A car’s trip computer can let you know your fuel consumption over a given trip, so try resetting it and, say, driving normally to work to get a baseline score — it’s usually expressed in L/100km (litres per 100km) or km/L (km per litre). The next day, reset it again and try the fuel-saving tips above and see how much difference they make!

You can also get a real-time readout of your car’s fuel consumption as you’re driving, which will let you know if you’re being frugal or wasteful at a given moment.

Categories
Featured On The Edge

Staying safe from fires

The total number of fire calls has decreased by 1.8 per cent in 2021 – and while that’s good news, even one fire is too many. How can we reduce fire risk, and what should we do if a fire breaks out near us?

TEXT: MELODY TAN

PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK

Fires can occur almost anywhere, from a HDB flat  to a waste oil processing plant, and even at a historical shrine on Kusu Island.

While the overall number of fire calls dipped slightly last year by 1.8 per cent, there were 194 cases of fire injury – ten more compared to 184 cases in 2020. In addition, three people died due to fires.

Fires are almost always preventable tragedies. Taking a few sensible precautions can ensure our safety, as well as the protection of our belongings and buildings. Read on to learn how to lower fire risk, as well as steps to take if a fire breaks out.

TIP #1: DON’T MESS WITH ELECTRICITY

There have been multiple cases of fires started by faulty battery packs of power-assisted bicycles (PABs) or personal mobility devices. These battery packs are often left to charge overnight or for a period of time, before exploding and igniting a fierce blaze.

If you have a personal mobility device or a PAB, be sure to buy original batteries and refrain from charging them overnight, for a long and unattended period of time, or near combustible materials. You should examine the batteries regularly for signs of damage, such as corrosion, bloating or a powdery residue. Avoid charging the battery immediately after using the PAB or mobility device, and never tamper with or modify it.

Similarly, electrical wiring in your home should be installed by a qualified electrician, as fires of electrical origin were the number one type of fire in 2021, with 588 cases, or 31.9 per cent of all fires. When purchasing electrical appliances, look out for the SAFETY mark. This indicates that the product has been tested for safety measures against fire, explosion and other dangers.

TIP #2: COOK WITH CARE

You might be a magician in the kitchen, but even a culinary wizard wouldn’t be able to stop a blaze once it’s out of control. To reduce fire risk, never leave your cooking unattended and be sure to keep flammable items away from any heat sources, such as the open flame on your stove.

To avoid nasty burns – or worse – avoid wearing loose clothing, such as long flowing sleeves, when you are cooking. Switch off the electrical outlets to appliances when they aren’t in use, and make sure that they aren’t overloaded. Next to electrical fires, cooking-related fires were the second highest in 2021, with 408 cases.

TIP #3: EXTINGUISH FOR CERTAIN

Fires can start from the smallest of sparks – and that includes a cigarette butt that hasn’t quite been stubbed out.

“Dropped light” fires – defined as fires caused by unextinguished cigarettes, charcoal embers and incense sticks – were the third most common type of fire last year, with 349 incidents.

If you are disposing charcoal embers or cigarette butts in the common rubbish chute or a bin, make sure that they have been fully extinguished to reduce fire risk. And if you have an altar or an aromatherapy burner at home, place it far away from curtains.

TIP #4: EDUCATE EVERYONE

Whether at home or in the workplace, everyone sharing the same space should be fully aware of potential fire risks.

For example, children should be taught to play with sparklers and lanterns outdoors only. Adults should make it a habit to avoid cluttering up fire escape paths, especially with flammable items such as books, newspapers and boxes. If you have a domestic helper who does the ironing, make sure she knows to switch off the iron instead of leaving it unattended on the board, as overheated fabric can catch fire. You might also consider organising a fire drill at least twice a year within your own household, so that everyone knows what to do in an emergency.

In workplaces, fire safety equipment, like smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, should be kept updated. Employees should be trained to know what to do in the event of a fire. Employees should also make it a habit to turn off computers, laptops and other appliances when leaving the office. After all, fire safety is everyone’s responsibility.

WHAT TO DO WHEN A FIRE OCCURS

If a fire breaks out near you, the first thing to do is to stay calm. Call 995 for the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), alert others and proceed to evacuate.

In the event of a small fire, you can attempt to put it out with a fire extinguisher (You can learn to use one on the SCDF website.) When it comes to a grease fire – such as cooking oil that has ignited – do not throw water on it, as that will cause the oil to splash and spread the fire even more. Instead, you can try starving it of oxygen by placing a metal (not glass, which will shatter) pot or pan over it, or pour a large amount of baking soda over the fire. It creates carbon dioxide when heated, which can smother the fire. You can also use a large damp towel to extinguish the fire.

In the case where it’s not possible to put out the fire without endangering yourself or others, it’s best to leave the area. If you can reach the gas mains on your way out, turn it off. If possible, close the door and shut the windows of the room that the fire is in so that it can be better contained.  Avoid smoke inhalation by staying low and crawling close to the walls. Use the stairs and try to head down to the ground floor. If you’re on a very high storey, look for the refuge floor – a holding area that provides safe harbour for residents during a fire.

When it’s not possible to leave the building, head to a room with a window – ideally one that faces a road, so that rescue can take place faster. Roll up a thick piece of cloth, like a blanket or carpet, to prevent smoke from entering through the bottom gap of the door. Let the SCDF operator on the phone know the location of the fire, where you are in the building, and how many people you have with you.

Finally, if the fire is not in your apartment but your neighbour’s, you should still evacuate rather than adopt a ‘wait-and-see’ approach. SCDF’s protocol calls for the evacuation of residents on the same floor, or the two floors above the scene of the fire. Even if you’re not certain about whether the fire will spread, it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry. 

Categories
On The Edge

5 things you probably didn’t know about artificial intelligence

For starters, artificial intelligence is already a big part of your life – and it’ll become even more important in the future.

TEXT: MELODY TAN

IMAGES: SHUTTERSTOCK

We tend to think of artificial intelligence (AI) as hailing from the futuristic realm of science fiction – but chances are, AI is already a part of your daily routine.

For example, if you’ve ever approached HomeTeamNS’ chatbot, Hey Irene, on the HomeTeamNS Mobile App or website for help with your HomeTeamNS membership, you’ve successfully interacted with AI. In fact, just unlocking your phone using facial recognition software entails using AI as well. Checking for traffic jams on your way to work using Google Maps? You guessed it – also powered by AI.

In its most basic form, AI combines computer science and high-quality data to solve problems. There are two main types of AI: Weak or narrow AI and strong AI.

The former is most common, as it’s used to perform specific tasks like recognising your face or crunching data to generate insights. Researchers are working towards strong AI which is also known as general AI. This involves a machine with the same level of intelligence and self-awareness as a human being – think Blade Runner, or the androids in Westworld.

While we still have some ways to go before we achieve computer sentience, here are five things you probably didn’t know about AI, and its growing impact on our lives.

1. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS ALWAYS IMPROVING ITSELF – WITH YOUR HELP

Every time you ask a chatbot – like HomeTeamNS’ AI Chatbot 2.0 – for help, you’re helping it in return. Unveiled in December 2021, HomeTeamNS’ AI Chatbot 2.0 on the website, mobile application and Facebook page was developed with data analytics, which was launched in December 2020.

AI Chatbot 2.0 aims to achieve an intuitive chatbot experience. Queries are successfully answered, without users having to ask the same question in different ways until the AI recognises what they’re looking for.

To do this, useful chat analytics break down the Chatbot’s performance into categories including “type of enquiries received” and “number of clicks” for each main menu item. This enables staff to identify service gaps and better understand users’ behaviour.

From the start, the Chatbot function has proved popular, with an average of 54 daily interactions across a two-month period from December 2021 to February 2022. These days, instead of being “trained” by having instructions programmed into them, AI chatbots are increasingly capable of automatically using past interactions to learn more about what users want, in a process called self-feeding.

2. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS PERSONALISING SHOPPING LIKE NEVER BEFORE

Just as AI chatbots learn from your conversation, AI solutions can tap on machine learning and big data to hyper-personalise advertising – targeting your likes and dislikes, right down to the smallest of details.

For instance, e-commerce site Lazada uses deep-learning technology to learn customers’ preferences in real-time as they shop. This helps the platform’s search and recommendation engine to suggest relevant products that pop up immediately as customers scroll down the page.

E-commerce giant Amazon uses AI not just to learn what customers are searching for, but why they are searching for a particular product. By predicting the occasion (a family beach holiday) that customers are buying the product for (children’s tropical print swim trunks), Amazon is able to recommend other products they are likely to buy (like sunscreen, flotation devices and towels).

3. AI’S DEVELOPMENT IS GUIDED BY STRONG ETHICS

If the classic sci-fi film 2001: A Space Odyssey scared you with its depiction of HAL 9000, a homicidal and super-intelligent AI, don’t worry. There are clear guidelines governing how AI solutions should be developed, so even if we had the technology to create them, evil AI masterminds will still stay fictional.

Currently, the main ethical challenges posed by AI revolve around privacy and surveillance, bias and discrimination, and deciding when human judgement is needed. For example, AI-powered apps can collect – and analyse – huge amounts of information on a person’s online preferences. AI algorithms that sort through job resumes can end up rejecting excellent candidates who miss out on using the right keywords or have qualities that only a human being will notice, such as creativity.

To ensure that AI developers in the private sector take these ethical concerns into consideration when building AI technologies, Singapore launched the second edition of its Model AI Governance Framework in 2020. It aims to ensure that AI solutions are accountable, transparent and most importantly, human-centric.

4. A.I. WILL MAKE MEDICAL TREATMENT FASTER AND MORE EFFECTIVE

One of the most exciting applications of AI is in healthcare, where AI is being used in areas like detecting diseases, monitoring people’s wellness, identifying the right medications for treatment and training medical professionals.

When developing pharmaceutical drugs, AI is used by many leading companies to crunch patient data and other relevant information to identify the medicinal compounds with the highest chances of success, instead of the traditional approach of trial-and-error.

Similarly, AI can be used to process data and more accurately identify different types of cancer – ensuring that patients can be treated quickly and more effectively, giving them improved outcomes.

5. ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE CAN HELP FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE

We tend to think of technology and big data as vast consumers of energy – but AI also has the potential to cut greenhouse gas emissions across the world by 4 per cent by the year 2030.

It can do this in a variety of ways, such as monitoring deforestation in the Amazon region, improving the storage and deployment of energy, and creating more energy-efficient buildings. The last is especially important, as air-conditioning uses a large amount of energy. In Singapore, air-conditioning in buildings and homes contributes 19 per cent of our carbon emissions.

AI can change this. AI software enables a smart air-conditioning system to adjust its temperature based on insights derived from real-time data, without requiring people to manually do it.

For example, the HomeTeamNS Khatib Clubhouse features a smart air-conditioning system that conserves energy by reducing its fan speed when a room is empty, and increasing its cooling when the room fills up with people. Proof that far from just being a cool sci-fi concept, AI is already an integral part of our environment – and our well-being. 

Categories
Featured On The Edge

How HomeTeamNS is making it easier for you to help yourself

HomeTeamNS goes digital for a seamless, more convenient experience on your next clubhouse visit.

TEXT: MELODY TAN

IMAGES: HOMETEAMNS

Everything’s going digital these days – and HomeTeamNS clubhouses are no exception.

Now, you can plan an entire day of fun at your preferred clubhouse with just your smartphone or tablet – no need for phone calls, in-person bookings or queuing up. While clubhouse ambassadors are still available if you prefer to speak to someone, why not try the digital experience? Read on for our handy guide on how to make the most of HomeTeamNS’ digital resources.

TALK TO THE CHATBOT, 24/7

If you’re just knocking off work in the middle of the night and suddenly remember that you had a membership query, the tireless HomeTeamNS Chatbot is available around the clock.

For instance, if you want to enjoy free T-Play membership for your child, the AI-powered chatbot would tell you that all you need to do is: Sign up for HomeTeamNS Family Membership for your child, and then enjoy free T-Play membership for a corresponding duration of two or five years, depending on the package.

You can speak to the chatbot on the mobile app or visit HomeTeamNS on its Facebook page or website to talk to “Hey Irene”, the HomeTeamNS chatbot.

If you can’t find the answers via chatbot, you can reach out by submitting a request through the online help centre. If you prefer personal interaction or have an urgent query, call 6708 6600 between 10am and 8pm to speak with a HomeTeamNS staff.

BOOK FACILITIES, ON MOBILE OR WEBSITE

Besides the mobile app, you can book HomeTeamNS clubhouse facilities via the facilities booking website. Locate your desired facility from the complete list, or search by clubhouse or category. For example, selecting Khatib Clubhouse brings up all available facilities. Adding “Recreation” to refine your search displays options like the Khatib ManCaves, BBQ Pits and Adventure HQ.

Whether you choose to book via the mobile app or website, you’ll be able to view all the pricing lists and packages, as well as make payment. There’s no need to be transferred elsewhere, or pay upon arrival.

GOT MORE QUESTIONS? ASK HOMETEAMNS HELP CENTRE

There’s also a one-stop cloud-based help centre introduced in November 2021.

Powered by Zendesk, the help centre offers a library of useful articles on popular topics, such as clubhouses, HomeTeamNS membership, facilities and facility booking, and cohesion and corporate team-building. Rather than having to call in to ask, members can help themselves to the needed information, saving time and effort. You’ll find answers to everything from “Is the Kids’ Pool open?” to “What do I need to bring for Pilates classes?”

This system is enhanced by allowing staff from different departments to have oversight of every customer interaction, whether it happens via e-mail or phone, in order to respond to queries in a more prompt and effective manner. Furthermore, the data collected from these interactions can be processed and analysed, so that customer service can continue to improve.

In addition, the help centre features a “Submit a request” portal that allow members to simply fill in the necessary information and even attach photos or files through a guided form to seek help on queries they have. There’s no risk of your request going missing or forgotten, as every request – also known as a customer support ticket – is tracked, prioritised and resolved.

DOWNLOAD THE HOMETEAMNS MOBILE APP, FOR ACCESS ON THE GO

Can’t remember where Clip ‘n Climb is located, or its opening hours? There’s an app for that – the HomeTeamNS Mobile App, to be precise.

Simply download the HomeTeamNS mobile application on Google Play or the Apple App Store, depending on your chosen device. Register your membership and tap to explore a host of useful functions, such as managing your bookings, learning about the latest promotions and getting recommendations based on your location, as well as reminders on upcoming courses you’ve signed up for.

Under the HomeTeamNS Family Scheme, your family members can sign up for their own accounts on the app and take advantage of its benefits as well. Can’t think of what to do on a weekend or during the school holidays? Sort events on the mobile app by Me Time, With My Buddies, With My Partner or With My Family, and pick from the recommendations.

Categories
Featured On The Edge

How to protect your privacy online – and why that matters

Ever wondered how much personal information you’ve revealed online? Here’s why it’s best to keep your digital life private.

TEXT: MELODY TAN

PHOTOS: SHUTTERSTOCK

In the age where every Google search inevitably results in customised ads showing up on your screen, and social media platforms suggest friends of friends to follow, it’s understandable why many people give up on digital privacy. After all, why bother when the Internet already knows so much about you (and all the cat videos you watch)?

In reality, we should all be doing our best to maintain our digital privacy. More than just having your embarrassing social media photos shared in public, a lack of digital privacy can have far-reaching consequences.

For example, password leaks and hacks can lead to your accounts being hijacked. Even if your passwords are safe, your identity may not be: If your full name and IC number are retrieved by a malicious actor, they can be used to apply for credit cards or loans, or even commit fraud at medical institutions. In some cases, the victim might not even be aware that their accounts or information have been compromised until they attempt to log in or are notified by the authorities.

Here are six ways to keep your personal information safe from potential breach.

1. CHECK YOUR PRIVACY SETTINGS

It’s good practice to check on the privacy settings of your social media accounts on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. If your profiles are set to public, it’s easy for people to scrape data from them and learn far more about you than you want them to – for example, the times and days you’re most often at work or the gym (so they can break into your home).

You should also turn off any location tagging functions. If you frequently tag your neighbourhood as your location, it’s not difficult for someone to ascertain which block or house you might live in. This could be based on landmarks or other recognisable features in the background. Besides making it easier for stalkers, this information might assist impersonators pretending to be you online in order to scam your friends.

2. YOUR PASSWORD STATUS: IT’S COMPLICATED

More complex and unique passwords make it more difficult for hackers to break into your online accounts or hijack your identity.

The more complex and unique your password, the better. These days, many websites and platforms will ask for a password that contains a combination of capital and small letters, numbers, and sometimes even special symbols.

Don’t be tempted to use your favourite go-to password or your child’s name, just because they’re easy to remember. Old passwords – especially if used repeatedly across multiple accounts – are more likely to have been leaked or hacked at some point. And you don’t want your leaked email password to also helpfully unlock your Facebook, Instagram, Shopee and SingPass accounts for the hackers. Remember, names of family members and pets are often shared on social media which makes them easy to guess as passwords.

3. DON’T REMEMBER PASSWORDS, MANAGE THEM

Instead of putting your memory skills to the test, you can use password manager software – such as Apple’s strong password generator – to create and remember long, complex passwords that are unlocked with one master password.

A password manager also allows you to disable the save password feature in your Internet browser. When you allow your browser to save passwords, you also enable anyone who has access to your device – whether physically or remotely – to view the saved passwords. In comparison, even the companies running the password manager software won’t know what your stored passwords are.

4. STAY UNDER THE RADAR

Similarly, you should clear your browser’s cache regularly, in case any sensitive information is stored there – making it easy pickings for a hacker.

If you aren’t a fan of targeted ads, or you simply feel uncomfortable with the fact that many websites sell your collected data to third parties, you can consider anonymous search engines. Your search topics and results won’t be recorded or tracked, helping you to minimise your digital footprint.

Use different email addresses for signing up to different accounts, so that if one gets hacked or compromised, your other accounts won’t be affected. Don’t worry about having to check multiple email inboxes: You can implement automatic forwarding to the inbox you use most.

5. ENABLE TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION

Two-factor authentication generates a unique, time-sensitive one-time password and send it to your phone, helping to increase the security of your online accounts.

Two-factor authentication – known as 2FA – offers an additional layer of security when you’re logging in to an account. You might have seen it on your Internet banking app, or on your Gmail account.

If you haven’t enabled it yet, make sure to do so. By asking you to confirm your identity after you input your password – usually through the generation of a unique, time-sensitive one-time password sent to your phone – the 2FA process safeguards your account and the personal information within.

6. DON’T FORGET ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE

Finally, a piece of advice that’s been around since the ’90s, but is still deeply relevant today: Make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus software installed on your desktop or laptop. No matter how careful you are in your digital activities, you won’t be able to evade all malware or malicious online actors.

Anti-virus software protects your computer from viruses, spyware, malware and more. It can block spam, prevent loss of your personal information, scan dubious devices and files and most importantly, offer you greater peace of mind when it comes to your digital privacy.

In this digital age, it’s important to be aware of the types of online crime that may surface, be they on social media or websites. Here’s how you can prevent yourself from falling victim to cybercrimes and phishing scams.

Categories
On The Edge

Beat Singapore’s Summer Heat