How 5G is transforming Malaysia’s roads

25 February 2020
smart traffic

Noisy roads choked with cars and never-ending stretches of beautiful beaches don’t really go hand-in-hand. But they co-exist uneasily in Langkawi, one of Malaysia’s popular island getaways, especially during peak holiday periods.

Telekom Malaysia (TM)’s enterprise and public sector business arm, TM ONE, has created several 5G-powered solutions to tackle this issue and ensure visitors enjoy a smooth journey throughout their holiday. “When you talk about smart tech, it’s not about the technology, but your experience when you touch down in Langkawi,” Maznan Deraman, TM ONE’s innovative solutions head, recently told GovInsider.

TM is testing 11 5G applications in Langkawi in the first half of 2020. Here is how three of them can help transform Langkawi’s roads.

Smart parking

Malaysia already has a series of options for parking apps that make fee payments easier. But TM ONE’s latest smart parking endeavour sets itself apart from the rest. “For the normal parking app we’re used to today, users have to select a parking bay and tell the system how long they’ll be parking for,” explained Azrin Aris, Director of Products & Innovation at TM ONE at a recent media showcase. But this can be inaccurate, and TM ONE is trialling a new feature to reduce human error so the correct fee can be charged.

TM ONE’s parking app shows users live footage of the parking lots, captured by high-definition cameras in the area. Instead of manually keying in the parking lot number, “users just need to tap on the phone to record the exact location of their parking spot,” he said.

The app will create a seamless experience for drivers – they can start looking for parking spaces and book it through the app even before setting off in their car. Drivers also don’t have to specify how long they will be parking for. Sensors in the parking lots will detect when the car has driven off, and the app will charge the appropriate fees automatically.

The app also helps traffic wardens work more efficiently. They can identify cases of illegal parking through the footage captured on the app, without manually checking up on parked cars. Officials can also find out how long a car has been illegally parked in a spot, so they can issue the appropriate fines.

“We can also look out for traffic violations with the camera,” said Maznan. Traffic wardens can study the footage to look for wayward drivers going the wrong direction in a one-way street, or rogue motorcyclists riding on the pedestrians’ path.

Smart traffic light

Langkawi’s roads can get quite busy, especially during peak traveling seasons. TM ONE has devised a smart traffic light that regulates traffic flow to shorten wait times.

IoT sensors installed in traffic lights measure patterns such as the average waiting time and how many cars are turning right or going straight. “Previously we didn’t have this information [about traffic conditions]. If we wanted to do this, we had to send people to the roadside to count,” said Maznan.

“The traffic light then uses this data to adjust the green time period. For instance, the traffic light would flash green for a longer time when there are more vehicles passing through. This would mean less congestion, quicker journeys, less fuel consumption, and a smaller carbon footprint,” explained Maznan.

The traffic light also comes with a built-in contingency plan, just in case the IoT sensors malfunction. “We use the predicted values to change the default setting, so it gives time for authorities to fix the sensors while not heavily impacting user experience,” shared Azrin.

Smart vehicle management

Telekom Research & Development (TM R&D), TM ONE’s sister company and TM’s innovation arm, has developed a system for car rental companies to manage their fleet. “Langkawi is a tourist Island and car rentals are the most used mode of transport,” explained Dr. Sharlene Thiagarajah, CEO of TM R&D.

The new tech allows car rental companies to track each vehicle’s usage pattern in real time, using GPS that runs on 5G networks. The system also grades each employee’s driving behaviour by giving a score for each drive.

“Car rentals will know who’s driving your car, where they are going, if there has been harsh braking or harsh cornering, or if there is excessive idling,” said Dr Sharlene. “Car rental operators will then understand the usage pattern and maybe create new business models with the customers.”.

This can change the way insurance companies charge for car rentals as well. “Today, most of us who drive are paying for insurance 24/7. Imagine if we have data to show insurance companies that we are only driving two or three hours a day,” Dr Sharlene said. “Insurance companies could perhaps use this information to offer more tailored packages to customers,” she explained.

These three solutions have the potential to transform Langkawi’s roads and ultimately, its city planning. All the data collected by these systems can be consolidated on a dashboard so officials can understand the city’s needs better. “We want to see where vehicles are going and where people are congregating,” said Dr Sharlene. These are the insights that will help us plan better and safer cities.


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