kiplePark makes parking frictionless with Malaysia’s first licence plate recognition system
By Tan Jee Yee August 30, 2019
- AI cam can recognise licence plates with 99% accuracy
- Payment via smartphone app, or automatically deducted from e-wallet
DRIVERS entering the parking lot of the Bukit Jalil City building in Kuala Lumpur are in for a rather unusual experience. Here, the parking entrance barriers open as the driver approaches it. They will get no ticket, and there’s no need for Touch ‘n Go or any other access card. The entire parking system is ticketless and, with the help of a smartphone app, cashless.
This is because the parking lot here, is one of the few sites in Malaysia running kiplePark, a brand under Green Packet Bhd that is providing the country’s first parking experience using licence plate technology (LPR).
The underlying concept of kiplePark is simple. The LPR is driven by AI technology that works through an AI camera that is connected to a centralised management portal as well as e-wallet and digital payment systems. The system was built in partnership with AI company SenseTime.
The AI camera will capture the licence plate of each car that enters a parking space. Through a smartphone app, the driver will receive a digital ticket, which they can pay using the app. Better yet, the driver can set the app to automatically deduct funds from the app’s e-wallet upon exiting, so the driver can exit without manually making a payment.
The user will need to first register their licence plate number into the app, which is a rather simple process that involves taking pictures of the licence plate. According to the company, the AI has achieved a more than 99% accuracy rate in reading the numbers of car licence plates, even when they are obscured by backlight or if the number plate is partially damaged.
This is apparently due to years of letting kiplePark LPR capture and learn images of more than one million car licence plates in Malaysia.
Kiplepay Sdn Bhd chief operating officer Mike Lee (pic, top) calls this “frictionless parking”.
“At kiplePark, we understand drivers’ frustrations, such as looking for machines to pay the tickets, and/or queuing to pay for the ticket. The frustration elevates further when you are rushing to your next appointment and realise that you have run out of notes,” he says during a press event announcing the service.
“Having evaluated the needs of the fast-paced society of today, coupled with our strong belief that every human must thrive with life improving digital innovations, kiplePark LPR sets out to provide a VIP experience to users where they can enter and exit car parks without much hassle.”
The first parking operator to use kiplePark is Edisjuta, which operates Bukit Jalil City’s parking services. Presently, kiplePark LPR is undergoing trial and testing stages at other sites in the Klang Valley, Penang, Johor Bahru and Kota Kinabalu.
Parking payment isn’t the only feature under kiplePark. There is a security feature which allows users to “lock” their cars from leaving the venue with just the touch of a button. In this way, a car cannot leave the parking lot until the owner taps on the unlock button.
kiplePark is meant to integrate with the brand’s own e-wallet system. As Lee tells Digital News Asia, in time the app will have features that include providing free parking to patrons of specific restaurants in a building, or gift coupons and vouchers to users.
“In a way, it’s a form of advertising for F&B merchants in a building, and at the same time benefits users with discounts,” he says.
A thing to note about kiplePay is that it doesn’t charge a service fee – users don’t pay extra on top of their parking fees.
It may not be as frictionless an experience as kiplePark hopes, at least for now. For one, users who want to use the app to pay their parking fees can only do so with internet connectivity – problem is, a lot of basement parking in the country has little to no internet access. So it’s up to the user to diligently ensure they pay their parking before entering the basement.
Lee says, however, that the automatic payment feature doesn’t require any internet connection to work (the entire payment is done at the back-end), so users don’t have to worry that they’ll be stuck in an internet-less basement.
At the same time, for non-app users, payment can still be made at physical kiosks, which allow users to pay by typing their licence plate number on a touchscreen.
Anything to do with AI and licence plate recognition inevitably raises questions of security. Lee assures us that because the e-wallet system is operating under the Central Bank’s license, they are bound by strict requirements to ensure that the app is secure. Additionally, the Central Bank will periodically audit kiplePark’s systems and their reports.
Another thing to note about kiplePark’s systems is that they work with the pre-existing parking lot systems that are in place, meaning that operators or building owners don’t need to invest in a completely new system in order to integrate with kiplePark.
“We have integrated with the most common brands available in Malaysia. We work hand-in-hand with those system providers to help them provider better experiences for their customers,” Lee says.
As for the cost of setting up kiplePark’s system, Lee did not provide an exact number, but says that the cost is “one-third (1/3) that of traditional parking systems”.
Getting in place
The LPR isn’t the first parking offering from kiplePark. Prior to introducing the new AI system, kiplePark allowed users to make parking fee payments by scanning the barcode on their physical parking tickets – a feature that is still in place for three parking sites in the country.
The kiple brand itself started as an e-wallet app. According to Lee, the focus on parking is a way to make the e-wallet system more attractive with a strong use incentive.
“We started looking at what will be the biggest pain point for a person using cash for payment, and we found that parking is one of it. How do we create something that can help? From there, we started looking at technology to help provide a seamless parking experience for drivers,” he says.
Parking in Malaysia, Lee says, often stays unchanged. “With AI, we can see it as a way to provide a better experience.”
kiplePark’s revenue model is to sell the AI camera and the its systems and software to operators, on top of an annual maintenance fee (Lee says that this is a common model for the type of hardware they’re providing). They also earn from merchant discount rate (MDR) charges, which are borne by the operators.
The immediate plan is to get more partners on board. “More partners means we are able to reach and help a bigger group of users, so that we can extend this to areas beyond the Klang Valley,” Lee says.
There will also be a plan to merge the kiplePark app with kiplePay, the brand’s e-wallet app. Lee says that they are currently separate apps to avoid confusion for new users. They also prefer that the landing page of the parking app provides more relevant information to users.
The biggest challenge for them, Lee says, is to convince building stakeholders and operators to understand the technology. “To have them come together has taken us a longer time than expected,” he says.
But that’s all too common with new technology that changes the way old methods work. This writer, on the other hand, can’t wait for his nearby mall to implement this, so that there’s no need to go seek out the elusive parking counter after a midnight movie.