Is LTA laying the groundwork to upgrade SimplyGo?

Remember SimplyGo? An ongoing upgrade could add support to show the balance value. Eventually.

Is LTA laying the groundwork to upgrade SimplyGo?
Photo Credit: Unsplash/The Transport Enthusiast DC

Remember SimplyGo? An ongoing upgrade could add support to show the balance value. Eventually.

You probably still remember what happened.

In January, a plan to throw out the current stored-value system for SimplyGo was announced, then hurriedly reversed following a public backlash.

At that time, LTA said it will study ways to enhance features and improve the user experience. I wrote about it here.

Can it be upgraded?

I observed previously how it's evident that SimplyGo was never designed to show the balance value at the gantry. But could it be upgraded to make it happen?

Experts I spoke to suggested two possible ways:

A) Build new backend with near real-time response time.
B) Cache card values at every train station.

But there's one problem. Neither solution will work on public buses.

Why? (A) won't work cause terminals on buses are likely batch updated and on 4G, and (B) because it'll be too costly to put edge devices on thousands of buses.

Read about it here.

Here comes 5G

At that time, I suggested that the superior latency of 5G might allow SimplyGo to work on public buses. But of course, the terminals on buses don't support 5G, so this idea is dead on arrival.

Turns out LTA just commissioned ST Engineering to install... thousands of 5G-enabled bus transmitter systems.

In fact, LTA is spending SG$175M (US$130M) to upgrade various systems on some 5,800 public buses here.

  • New fare collection equipment.
  • Move to cloud-based fleet management system.
  • Install onboard 5G-enabled bus transmitter system.

Specifically, the new fare collection equipment will be "upgraded to leverage the advantages of a 5G network and enable faster fare transactions for commuters."

Taken together, this sounds like an upgrade of terminals to support real-time updates via 5G to me.

When will this happen?

Of course, this is purely conjecture based on a press release with a rather staid "ST Engineering to Modernise Singapore’s Public Bus Fleet with Technology Upgrade" headline on 2nd May.

Anyway, even if it I'm spot on, don't expect to see it soon: Upgrading has started (Q2 2024) but will only be completed in 2027.

Still, it'll be interesting if LTA manage to pull this rabbit out of the hat. In fact, it'll be a world first; LTA had previously noted how nobody else had solved this challenge.

What do you think? Have you heard anything?