Google issues caused Android parking app delay, says Penang exco man

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow at the launch of the smart parking system on Aug 18. With him are HeiTech executive vice-president Abdul Halim Md Lassim (right) and state Local Government Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo.

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government said delays with Google’s mobile operating system had caused its smart parking app to remain unavailable to Android users for the past week.

The Penang Smart Parking, which allows motorists to pay at council parking lots via an app, was available only on Apple’s iOS platform, leaving other motorists using Android phones frustrated.

The Android system holds a lion’s share of the mobile market in Malaysia, with nearly 90% on the Google operating system, according to statistics by the DeviceAtlas OS detection platform website.

At a press conference today, state Local Government Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said the issue began when Android’s Play Store took an unusually long time to approve the app.

“There were technical issues with the Google Play Store, but now I am told that the app is approved and ready to go,” he said at a press conference today.

The iOS version of the app was approved “almost immediately”, a source told FMT, while the Android app was only given the green light to be downloaded at midnight today.

The RM115 million smart parking system is fully funded by HeiTech Padu Berhad (HeiTech).

The company will operate all 36,000 parking bays under the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) and Seberang Perai Municipal Council for the next seven years.

The parking system made the news after council chiefs slammed HeiTech for not meeting an Aug 18 deadline to instal some 647 sensors. The sensors are connected to the mobile app to show vacant or occupied parking bays.

Earlier this week, Jagdeep said HeiTech had only installed 30 sensors on the island and none in Seberang Perai.

Jagdeep said HeiTech informed the state government that it was unable to instal sensors due to logistic issues.

He said the sensors were en route through the Hong Kong International Airport, but had been indefinitely delayed due to the civil unrest there.

Jagdeep said the sensors are now being sent by sea to Port Klang, Selangor, and will arrive in Penang by Sept 6.

He said today that HeiTech was confident that it could instal 997 sensors throughout the state by Sept 24 and the rest by August next year.

“This is out of their control,” he said.

Separately, Jagdeep said HeiTech has admitted there had been issues with the app used by enforcement officers on Aug 19. It saw a woman, who had paid for her parking using the app, being fined.

He said those affected can report to the MBPP and have their fines retracted.

HeiTech signed a deal with the Penang government in May and was granted a 65:35 profit-sharing agreement for the first five years (35% to the councils), dropping to 60:40 in the final two years.

The company signed a five-year concession with an option to renew for another two years, for all 36,000 local council parking bays.

According to HeiTech’s Bursa announcement, the five-year agreement for MBPP runs from April 24, 2019 to April 2024. The agreement with MPSP was for a seven-year contract from May 1, 2019 to April 30, 2026.

The parking rate set by the councils is 80 sen an hour on the island and 40 sen an hour for Seberang Perai.

In a statement to FMT, a Google spokesperson said the delay in the app was caused by issues related to obtaining proper permission.

“The Penang Smart Parking app was delayed as the Google Play store policy requires the developer to obtain the right app permissions within a certain period of time.

“Google Play requires app developers to complete the Permissions Declaration Form for apps that requests the use of high-risk or sensitive permissions, such as SMS or Call Log.

“Once the app permissions have been declared by the developer through the form, the app will then be subjected to an extended review by the Google Play team before release,” the spokesperson said.