For frequent travellers across the Singapore–Johor Bahru borders, you will know exactly how painful traffic can be. Not only can the worst traffic jams set you back hours, but you will only know how bad traffic conditions are when you drive out to the border, and who has time for that?
Now imagine if you had some cameras installed there, so you could take a peek at how bad the traffic is before you go on your journey; wouldn’t that ease so much frustration?
Well, someone has done that. A four-man team are the geniuses behind MyTrafficCam app. What first started as a single camera at Menara Cyberport to oversee traffic in JB CIQ turned into a peek to the border straight from your smartphone screen. In fact, I can tell you that the Woodlands causeway from Singapore to JB at the time this article is written looks horribly congested.
We speak to MyTrafficCam to find out about the team behind the app, and it turns out that their backgrounds are surprisingly diverse. JJ Sor is the person who set up the first camera at JB CIQ, and was later joined by MC Teng, Rob, and Hong to make up the four-man team today.
Teng is a Malaysian entrepreneur in the General Insurance & Real Estate industry with a background in information technology; Rob, who provides the expertise behind the app, is Managing Director of Common Extract, a Mobile Apps and Games Development company; and Hong, the developer behind MyTrafficCam.com and the server supporting the app, is also the founder of MyVoucherBee, a mobile e-voucher platform.
“All of us are frequent travelers, as we have businesses on both sides of the causeways. Traffic can be very bad, sometime we may be stuck in the middle of causeway for up to 3 hours! We want to be able to check the traffic condition to make sure there is no heavy jam before we set off,” said Hong on the inspiration behind the app.
“There are a number of such apps. Due to limited cameras, they do not provide a good enough view on the customs. We decided to setup our own camera to provide better coverage and also created mobile app for accessing these cameras.”
The app is supported by 6 cameras, some of which are supported by Singapore LTA and Malaysia LLM. A central server gathers photos from each camera, and MyTrafficCam mobile app retrieves the aggregated photos from this central server. The app refreshes itself every 5 minutes to give you up-to-date coverage.
Admittedly, currently the app isn’t the only app around that monitors the border. However, according to Hong, all other apps are only aggregating cameras from Singapore LTA and Malaysia LLM, and thus share the same set of photos. MyTrafficCam, on the other hand, has an additional camera that gives it an extra point of view, and they are even planning to install more cameras to provide better coverage. In fact, they are planning to setup cameras near the second link on the Malaysia side.
“Finding suitable locations (with high-rise building/structure) to put up cameras, and getting permissions from the relevant parties to setup cameras is tough,” said Hong on the team’s challenges in creating MyTrafficCam. “We have to get in touch with the management team of the buildings and get their support for this community project.”
According to the team, there are thousands of users using MyTrafficCam every month, and number continues to grow. They have also vowed to make sure that the app continues to stay free, a goal that they try to support by staying open to advertising in the mobile app, a necessary evil in this case.
While I don’t frequently cross the border, I can’t deny the usefulness of this app. The app sports an easy-to-use swiping motion to alternate between the six camera angles it offers, with helpful arrows to let me know which road is which. You can even open up a map view to choose exactly which camera you want to look from. It definitely isn’t a messy app that detracts from its simple but important purpose.