It is estimated that motorists spend on average at least 20 minutes to secure a parking space in crowded areas, and 30 per cent of all traffic in cities consists of people looking for parking. During peak hours, at an estimated 95 per cent motorists find it difficult to find available spots that are hidden from view.
Although the widely-adopted solutions exist but they are only available at point of entry and do not provide real-time view to the motorists on the exact location of the empty lots available. So what should a commuter do? Enter SurePark, a Singapore-based Internet of Things startup, where the software and the hardware works together to make accurate parking information available to the driver in real-time.
The SurePark smartphone app provides smart directions to drivers to select from a list of car parks in the neighborhood and also directs drivers to the available space, reducing their search and waiting time.
“Finding parking can often be a frustrating experience. Typically, there are a hundred thousand cars going in different directions, and have to park at different locations. If they already know where they are going to park, there won’t be many cars circling around on the streets, and that means less traffic, less CO2 emissions, better planning, smarter city, and a smooth experience for motorists. It’s an overall target to help get Singapore to the next level and make it a smart city,” said Neil Mehta, Co-founder of SurePark.
“SurePark consists of an all-in-one package that includes our proprietary hardware and software. We will install our system in the car park, maintain it, and also provide timely software updates. It has a mobile app for guiding motorists and a dashboard providing car park owners with statistics. The cost and ease of installation of IoT devices to make a car park “SurePark enabled” makes it appealing to car park owners and operators,” he added.
The company was launched in mid 2014 with two partners and it joined the National University of Singapore’s startup incubator. “We got great traction as potential customers and partners are impressed with our solution to a real problem,” Mehta said. The startup has received its first round of funding through angel investors and will be seeking a new round in the coming 18 months.
A new economy of Internet of Things
IoT has the potential to solve a multitude of problems faced by industries such as health services, security and agriculture through remotely connected devices. Gartner predicts that the total economic value add for the Internet of Things will be US$1.9 trillion in 2020, seen across a number of industries. The Internet of Things will create tens of millions of new objects and sensors, all generating real-time data. There are over two billion IoT devices that are connected to the internet and it is predicted that by 2020 this number will grow to 26 billion. Factors such as falling costs of the underlying technology and the evolution of the Internet to allow physical objects to be connected are significant developments spearheading the growth of the IoT industry.
“The Internet of Things has the potential to become even more ubiquitous than a smartphone. We saw that as an opportunity and built SurePark to help you find parking built on an IoT backbone. Our aim is to become the Uber of parking,” Mehta stated.
Competition from Parking Guidance Systems
Streetline, a US-based smart parking solution provider is a competition to SurePark. It has rolled out its solution in several US cities and University Campuses. The traditional Parking Guidance System (PGS) and electronic signboards also stand as competition. Most of these parking guidance systems consist of red and green lights inside a car park that visually guide a driver to an open space once they are inside the car park. Digital signboards outside car parks also give some sense of parking availability.
However, Mehta believes that SurePark is smarter as it does a real-time scan of parking availability close to the final destination and actively guides to the open space. “It does so while you are still driving, and not after you find yourself stuck behind a line of cars scrambling to park,” he explained.
Starting June, SurePark will be showcased at Singapore’s Infocomm Experience Center, iExperience. The Centre showcases innovative smart city initiatives to businesses, consumers, government and overseas visitors. It has a test bed in progress as well as engagements with two major car park operators.
Getting the right mix of talent is challenging
According to Mehta, finding a combination of right skill sets coupled with the commitment to deliver on them is a challenging area. “It has been difficult to get the right mix of engineering talent and collaborate with them effectively. The upside being that the people who do come onboard are able to punch above their weight and deliver in ways that help leap the company forward,” he said.
The startup wants to expand to the densely populated Southeast Asian and South Asian cities in the near term.
This article was written in collaboration with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) for their upcoming Smart Nation Innovations (SNI) 2015 Conference where tech leaders and industry experts will dwell into the many possibilities of a Smart Nation future driven by data, business, policies, and tech innovations, such as robotics and virtual reality. Expect showcases, demos, and powerful networking as well.
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