Entrepreneur

KL-Ites Can Say Goodbye To Parking Machines Because "There's An App For That"

From time to time, I’d try to help senior citizens or parents with kids attempting to pay with coins, only to see the frustration on their faces when the machine does not work.

Rather than risk a parking ticket, we end up walking to the next machine, or even the one after that, in the sun, lugging a pouch of coins.

Allowing users to pay their street parking fee by using a smartphone app, JomParking aims to reduce the hassle of utilising the parking meters in Kuala Lumpur.

Setting up and using the app is fairly straightforward.

1. Install the app from either Google Play or the Apple App Store.

2. Register an account upon receiving a confirmation code.

3. You’ll be taken to the homepage where you can add in your vehicle number.

Image Credit: JomParking

4. Tokens can be purchased from RM6 onwards within the app. Select “More”, then “Top up”. There’s a range of payment gateways you can buy the tokens with, with most major banks on board.

5. Set the location zone and duration to park. Users can also identify JomParking zones with their logo present at designated street parking areas. A full list of locations is available on the app, or on the website itself. JomParking is available at metered street parking spaces and certain city-owned parking lots regulated by DBKL.

6. Tap on the JomParking logo at the bottom of the app homepage, and there you have it, you’ve paid for your parking. 

7. If necessary, you can also extend the time of your parking using the app. Alerts will also be sent 15 minutes before the time is up.

How It All Began

Muhamad Nasir Habizar formed AppCable the mobile app developer behind JomParking, in 2012. Before that, he was with Celcom Technology and had previously dabbled in many fields for product development like Voice Messaging, Interactive Voice Response and more.

He opted to focus on mobile content starting with SMS as he felt that mobile apps are more versatile to work on. Nasir then built his team with 5 developers, also with diverse fields of experience ranging from UI/UX skills, iOS and Native Android and database developing.

The idea of JomParking came about after receiving an invite to propose a Smart Parking solution for TBS (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan). Although the project did not see the light at that time, the team decided to try develop the idea in early 2015.

Behind The App

Bear with me, there will be some tech jargon coming up. JomParking was developed using PHP Laravel framework as the core engine. Their native iOS runs on Objective-C and Swift and their Native Android was developed using Android Studio. Nasir also told Vulcan Post that they monetise the app by receiving a minimal cut for every parking transaction.

Developing the app is one thing, making it actually useful is another. Making the app available in parking areas involves:

  • Getting approval from the local council or parking operator. After that, JomParking works out on the zone name, rates and operation hours and included in the system.
  • As soon as the information is uploaded, JomParking apps will display the new areas automatically and users will be able to use the service.

While technology provides solutions and makes our lives easier, we did wonder about some aspects of the app and brought it up to Nasir.

1. Minimum Requirement

The minimum duration you’re required to pay for is an hour to the maximum of six hours. Nasir explained that this setting helps make calculating the total amount easier for users. However, there are plans in the pipeline for 15 or 30 minute slots in the future.

2. Dealing With Authorities

As the app eliminates the need to display a parking ticket on a vehicle dashboard, how would traffic officers know you’ve actually paid? According to Nasir, JomParking is integrated with ALPR (Automated License Plate Recognition), where the enforcement officer scans the vehicle registration number to identify the parking status.

3. User Friendliness

Not everyone has smartphones, or they’re not tech savvy at least. Let’s give a little scenario: Your mom would like to park in Bangsar, but she cannot find a parking machine. What can she do?

Because the app has a ‘add another vehicle’ feature, Nasir explained that you are able to pay for your mom wherever you are, even if you’re in another state.

An Eye On The Future

There are other new features being planned such as an alert when you forget to switch off your vehicle lights, when a vehicle alarm is triggered or when there’s a flood, so that the user can return to move the vehicle. Nasir hopes for the service to go international in future and is also working on collaborations with more parking operators and machine manufacturers.

JomParking is certainly not the only parking app out there, with apps like ParkBox and Parkbyphone also offering similar features but covering different areas.

However, as a user, what stands out to me is this—when I want to park in a different locations, this will involve me downloading yet another app and setting it up before I can utilise this system. And with a reported half of the 700 parking machines in Petaling Jaya being faulty, it’s very likely that having the right app would come in handy.

It’s not a swipe at any of the operators and app developers though, even if a concerted collaboration between them all would be nice. We’re already used to having to deal with different councils operating at different areas. Now, we’re simply exchanging one experience (preparing coins and dealing with machines, looking out for coupon booths) for another (downloading an app, filling in details, setting it up for use), and some might argue for the better.