In a recent development, it has been revealed via a tip-off from a member of the public that a team of students from Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) were the first to come up with a parking app in Singapore back in 2013, way before students from Temasek Polytechnic claimed the title in 2016, as reported in a 2019 TOC report.
The team of third-year students from NYP utilized data provided by government agencies to create the parking app, called “PP-Coupon”. The app aimed to replace traditional paper-based coupons, which were seen as a hassle for users and wasteful in terms of paper usage.
Lim Sheng Han, a team member of the NYP project, said to the media in 2013, “Purchasing a coupon and calculating the likely time of parking has always been a hassle. Furthermore, we use a lot of paper when tearing up the coupons. We hope that this app can help to save such wastage.”
With their parking app, the team won second place in the student categories at the inaugural PlugFest International Programming Competition in February 2013 and received praise from Mrs Josephine Teo, who was then Minister of State for the Ministry of Transport.
Mrs Teo said during the awards presentation, “We don’t want to have to worry about the time limit of our parking coupons during our visits to our families and be unable to enjoy the time with them.”
In the same month, the team also won second place at Isobar Create, the first Near Field Communication (NFC)-themed 32-hour hackathon.
The app required the user to paste a special sticker on their car, which was then detected by the app using NFC. Users could then pay for parking fees and top up their parking time through the app, eliminating the need for physical coupons. The parking management could also use the same method to check if the car owner had paid the parking fees and whether the car had exceeded its parking time.
Similar to the current app “Parking.sg” that Singapore uses, the app by the NYP students also uses Global-Positioning-System for positioning. The NFC sticker on the car is meant to identify the parked vehicle in the system, while the current app just allows the user to type in the vehicle number — a difference that could be tweaked easily.
The team shared that they pitched the app to the Urban Development Board (URA) and Housing Development Board (HDB) and was later visited by URA at the polytechnic in February 2013.
However, after a presentation to the visiting officials, they were informed that the idea would no longer be valid as Singapore was set to roll out a new ERP system that would eliminate coupon payments for parking.
In 2013, then Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew informed the public that the government had concluded that a satellite-based electronic road pricing (ERP) system, which can charge according to distance travelled, is likely to be feasible in Singapore. The new system would also include couponless street parking and dynamic charging for off-peak cars.
The NYP team did not continue with the project, as it required the support of authorities to launch and kick-off.
In 2016, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) awarded a tender to NCS Pte Ltd and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engine System Asia Pte Ltd to develop a new Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS)-based ERP system that could facilitate coupon-less street parking. The system was aimed to be operational by the year 2020, according to the LTA website.
A year later, in his National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the launch of a new mobile app that would change how people pay for parking in Singapore. The app was developed by a team at GovTech, and it allowed users to pay for parking via their mobile phones, eliminating the need for physical coupons. The app was created with the support of the Ministry of National Development (MND), URA, and HDB – the same agencies that had earlier told the NYP students that their project was not feasible.
When TOC managed to contact one of the team members, he said, “Initially, in 2013, when they told us abt ERP 2.0, we accepted the fact as since there is a new system coming up soon to replace and change the existing system.
“But when I saw the news abt Parking.SG – I was very indignant as I started to question why didn’t URA tell them about the ERP 2.0.?”
“Where is ERP 2.0 that was informed by URA that is abt to phase in? And why is the app so similar to ours?” questioned the team member.
TOC has written to the Ministry of National Development (MND) and URA for its comments and will include them when they respond.
Correction: PM Lee mentioned the app in 2017 not 2016.