[A previous version of this article stated Spotizen was based in Singapore. While the app is built for the city and functions for a Singaporean market, the developers are actually based in Bangalore.]
Locating a vacant parking lot in an urban jungle such as Singapore can cause even the most mild-mannered person to burst a blood vessel.
Just last weekend, my friend drove me to Changi Village to eat Nasi Lemak. To our chagrin, the usually serene, idyllic seaside neighbourhood was teeming with Pokémon Go hunters; families arrived in throngs in their big SUVs to catch virtual monsters.
Naturally, car parks were packed to the brim. Even those who had electronic lot number displays, for some bizarre reason, were over-reporting the vacancies. We ended up having to park on the far side of the beach.
Bangalore-based startup Spotizen wants to leverage on tech to help drivers in Singapore locate the right car parks before they even rock up to the entrances.
Now, such smart solutions already exist in Singapore; one prime example would be IoT startup Innovation of Thingz. Its solution SurePark comprises of both hardware and software.
Car park operators install SurePark’s sensors at various car parks; users and owners then download the app to get the latest information on car park lots.
For its solution, Innovation of Thingz bagged the “TiE50” award of the prestigious TiE50 Technology Awards Program, which began in 1992 with the aim of helping entrepreneurs build companies.
How Spotizen differentiates itself
Karthik Kumaraswamy, Founder of Spotizen, acknowledges that he may not have the first-mover advantage, but believes that his approach may be superior to SurePark due to its ease of deployment.
This is because Spotizen solutions are completely software-based. It was created to first serve parking lots without electronic displays.
Essentially, the app extracts data from the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA), Urban Development Authority (URA), and drivers’ smartphones, and combine them all into one big data engine to predict availability in real-time, as well as future demand.
“We found close to 40 per cent of parking lots that were Coupon Parking locations had no electronic display of availability. So we wanted to build a simple solution to help citizens find real-time availability information on their mobile,” says Kumaraswamy, in an interview with e27.
“We are approaching this from a software and data analytics angle to deliver actionable parking information. We feel a software driven approach scales better [than incumbents] globally,” he says.
Kumaraswamy knows a lot about data analytics. For six and a half years, he ran Iyotta Software, a real time personalised news and trends platform.
With his expertise in data science, he says he is able to build a model that can predict the availability for all lots that do not have real-time feeds.
The user journey
Kumaraswamy says he has designed Spotizen to be as simple and intuitive as possible.
“When a user downloads our app we ask their permission to get their location information. Once we get that permission we display all the parking locations and their vacancy statuses near the user’s current location, on a default map view,” he says.
Three colour codes are used to indicate lot availability information. Red means there are no slots; Orange indicates slots are filling fast; and Green shows that slots are aplenty.
Additionally, the app displays other information about the parking lot, such as price and payment type. It also has a smart search with an auto-complete feature, which helps drivers find parking lots near their destinations.
Drivers can switch between map or list view, and sort parking lot locations based on price or distance.
“We feel it is important in parking to show data with context; for example, 50 spots vacant in Marina Bay Sands is not the same as 50 spots vacant in a small HDB parking lot, and we take these things into account to help users decide where to park,” says Kumaraswamy.
Progress so far
Since its launch in June 2016, Spotizen’s coverage has expanded to over 425,000 parking spots across 1,000 HDB parking locations, 700 URA locations, and 300 malls/commercial complexes.
It is seeking external investment to drive user acquisition and product development.
“We will also make our parking availability data available on various platforms via smart AI bots and APIs. Our goal is to make it really easy for users to find parking availability information anytime anywhere, and not force users to have to depend on one channel,” concludes Kumaraswamy.
For drivers fed to the teeth with driving in circles searching for a lot, this app may be the perfect solution.
Image Credit: Spotizen