Over a quarter of the world’s eight billion people are negatively impacted by urban congestion almost every day: a complex problem requiring innovative solutions.
Enter Rob Brown and Matt Salmon, a prominent Australian marketer and a technologist and app developer respectively. In 2016, Rob and Matt launched KERB, a Brisbane-based start-up that helps drivers locate, compare, and book parking spots in real-time.
The KERB app also enables the owners of car spaces to lease them out to individuals and corporations and allows car park operators to provide hands-free access and payment options in their car parks.
Using the app, any car park platform or operator can hook into KERB’s technology, without needing to build or invest in additional parking technology. From a consumer point of view, KERB is available on iOS and Android phones, it works alongside existing car park access systems, and is cashless.
The global potential of the concept was evident from the outset. The platform was built with learnings from car park use-cases in many countries, it incorporates 21 languages and is localised for 600 cities. Today, KERB is in use in Sydney, London, Dublin, Manila and Singapore, and is about to launch across North America.
Tackling Kuala Lumpur’s congestion
Kuala Lumpur’s traffic congestion is legendary. One of the key causes of the city’s congestion and impaired mobility is the huge imbalance between the limited supply of traditional parking infrastructure and the high demand for it. There are over one million vehicles in Kuala Lumpur. According to KERB’s analysis, there are only approximately 500,000 traditional parking spaces, but the company believes that a marketplace like KERB can unlock another 690,000 parking spaces.
“Every single vehicle driving the streets of Kuala Lumpur during the rush hours has freed up a parking space in another part of the city,” says David Albaiceta, KERB’s Regional Director South-East Asia. “Hundreds of thousands of parking spaces sit empty for much of the week – behind condos, beneath hotels, attached to sports venues and places of worship, and in schools and universities.”
Austrade partnership provided key introduction
KERB accelerated the global rollout of its technology with the help of Austrade, and this support was key to the success the app has experienced in Malaysia.
In March 2019, Austrade co-ordinated a series of events in Jakarta, Malaysia and Bangkok, called the Smart and Sustainable Cities – ASEAN Mission.
Australian companies with solutions to urban challenges joined the mission, including KERB. In Kuala Lumpur, Austrade introduced KERB to local stakeholders, including property developers, other key corporates and government agencies.
These introductions provided a breakthrough. Following the mission, KERB negotiated a trial program of 50 spaces with the Sunway Group’s Sunway Tower in Kuala Lumpur.
The firm ventured into other commercial and residential properties following the trial. The KERB app is now helping over 2,000 vehicles to secure a parking space in Kuala Lumpur every day of the week.
KERB envisages a five-fold growth in vehicle uptake as the company expands in 2021 and Chief Executive, Rob Brown credits Austrade for helping KERB to launch in Malaysia.
“Austrade was key to opening up Malaysia for KERB,” he says. ‘The Smart Cities Mission opened several important doors with major property and developer groups – and with potential investors.
“The briefings and insights provided by the Austrade team and their contacts really helped us understand the local transport environment, as well as how city data is used to develop planning initiatives … [It] … gave us a real edge in the Malaysian market.
“Kuala Lumpur was a major landmark on our journey to opening up the world. It was where we were able to devise a solution to a significant problem that had been hindering our growth: how to securely let any vehicle into any car park, via the driver’s phone.”
Today, KERB is being used to park more vehicles in Kuala Lumpur than any other city worldwide.
Prestigious win in global challenge
KERB’s success in Malaysia led to the company winning the 2020 Toyota Mobility Foundation’s City Architecture for Tomorrow Challenge (CATCH), along with US privacy-first computer vision solution, Numina. Each company won US$250,000 to help bring their mobility solutions to life in Kuala Lumpur.
The City Architecture for Tomorrow Challenge (CATCH) is organised by Toyota Mobility Foundation and co-developed by Deloitte Future of Mobility Solution Centre, to drive intelligent data-driven, connected solutions towards more efficient, innovative, secure and sustainable cities.
It was a collaboration between the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) and Austrade that led to a briefing by CATCH organisers, which led to KERB’s nomination in the competition.
The event attracted 90 technology companies and university research departments. KERB was one of just six finalists. Each finalist’s ‘minimum viable product’ was implemented in Kuala Lumpur, with support from local authorities and transport operators.
“Helping people move more freely in cities is one of the underlying principles of Toyota Mobility Foundation. But for most cities, inefficiencies caused by legacy infrastructure; the chronic congestion triggered by a relentless daily flow of new vehicles onto the streets, make that underlying principle difficult to achieve. Fresh and innovative solutions are required,” says Rob Brown.
KERB will be using the TMF CATCH prize money to expand its existing team and activities in Malaysia. The app is currently available in some Sunway locations and will be starting a pilot with Prasarana at Gombak and Ampang Park ‘n Ride.
Malaysia and Australia enhance technology collaboration
The Australia–Malaysia Tech Exchange (AMTX) is a new initiative designed to improve Australia–Malaysia collaboration in digital transformation. Its purpose is to opportunities for Australian technology businesses to partner with Malaysian companies.
The program of business activities covers multiple sectors and is jointly implemented by Austrade and the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC). AMTX helps companies upscale their digital capabilities and increase commercial collaboration.
Australia and Malaysia have a long history of collaboration across technologies in the oil and gas, property, logistics and defence sectors.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by Austrade Kuala Lumpur and MDEC in December 2020 aims to build on this history of commercial partnerships focusing on multiple spheres of technology.
“Australia is an important trading partner for Malaysia, and we look forward to building closer bilateral trade ties in digital trade and investment via this program,” says MDEC Chief Executive, Surina Shukri.
“This collaboration will improve innovation and stimulate growth in the digital economy in line with Malaysia’s Digital Economy Blueprint,’ she adds. ‘We are committed to strengthening the tech ecosystems in both countries for shared success.”
Delivering new opportunities to tech businesses
The partnership with MDEC helps Australian businesses access major tech opportunities in Malaysia, according to Austrade’s Trade Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur, Paul Sanda. It also promotes two-way investment.
“AMTX will also help Malaysian firms that are looking to Australia for potential investment opportunities,” he says. “It should also trigger collaboration with Australian companies in other markets.”
The exchange also promotes upskilling opportunities to meet increasing demand for digital solutions.
“This program will drive more cooperation in public–private partnerships, and this will lead to real outcomes for business,’ he continues. ‘We have received fantastic support from the Malaysian government.”