HDB makes it a point to be more accessible - and real

The revamped Mobile@HDB app has an augmented reality feature. This allows users to point at any block with their mobile devices' cameras and find out the recent resale prices of flats nearby.
The revamped Mobile@HDB app has an augmented reality feature. This allows users to point at any block with their mobile devices' cameras and find out the recent resale prices of flats nearby. ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

App's reality feature lets users point their devices' cameras at blocks to obtain data

Property buyers, sellers and agents can now look up resale prices of Housing Board flats just by using their smartphones or tablets.

A new augmented reality feature on the HDB's revamped mobile application taps into a device's global positioning system function to identify nearby residential blocks.

By pointing their devices' cameras at blocks within a 200m radius, users may find out details of resale transactions in the past two years, including prices and flat sizes.

They may also access this information through a location-based map and list of nearby flats. Previously, users had to do a manual search by entering the flat type, location and resale registration date.

WOW FACTOR

It's quite cool. Now we can just find out prices on the spot and impress customers in real time.

MR LAWRENCE FOO, a Huttons agent

The Mobile@HDB app, which has been downloaded more than 325,000 times since it was launched in 2011, was revamped on Oct 7, along with the HDB website, to step up customer service.

The free app has a new mobile concierge function, which allows users to track their HDB appointments by scanning their identity cards. The function also lets them get a queue number ahead of time, as long as they are within the HDB Hub's vicinity, such as at Toa Payoh MRT station.

Push notifications can also be sent via the app to alert a customer when his turn is up.

Secretary Charlene Tan, 45, said: "Instead of waiting around for our number to be called, we can run errands and not worry about missing our turn."

In a bid to aid navigation and comprehension, the HDB has changed the design and content of its website, which gets more than two million visits each month.

For instance, words such as "lessee" and "sublet" have been replaced with simpler synonyms such as "flat owner" and "rent". The new layout provides more direct links to its most visited pages.

HDB deputy chief executive for estate and corporate Yap Chin Beng said the move minimises the need for customers to travel to HDB service centres.

"These mobile platforms enable customers' inquiries and transactions to be conducted electronically, any time and anywhere. (They) are part of the transformation to serve our customers better."

In the first week after the app was updated, 300 people used the concierge function, and 5,000 users tapped its augmented reality feature.

But the latter is not always accurate. The HDB's IT team, which developed the app, said it has a 20m to 100m degree of error when identifying the location of blocks.

Still, many have found the changes useful, including property agents. Huttons agent Lawrence Foo, 49, said: "It's quite cool. Now we can just find out prices on the spot and impress customers in real time."


See how the app works http://str.sg/ZuHM

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2015, with the headline 'HDB makes it a point to be more accessible - and real'. Print Edition | Subscribe