SINGAPORE - It can sometimes be difficult for the elderly to find a seat on a crowded MRT train, but a group of engineering students from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has come up with an innovative solution to this problem.
Inspired by the elderly-friendly traffic lights - which allow senior citizens to use their ez-link cards to extend the time available for crossing the road - the students developed a priority-seat system called Tap 'N' Sit.
It involves a folding chair affixed with a magnetic mechanism and electronic card scanner that allow the seat to open only after being activated by a senior citizen's ez-link card.
"Some elderly people might look a bit younger, so you might not be able to tell that they need the seat," explained Syed Irsyaad, one of the students who invented the Tap 'N' Sit.
In such situations, people might not be aware of the need to give up their seats. In other cases, inconsiderate commuters might simply choose to ignore the elderly.
This invention ensures there are seats on the train reserved for senior citizens. The seat folds away once it's no longer in use.
"(When the senior citizen is) done sitting on it, (the seat) will retract like a cinema chair and lock itself to prevent any abuse," said Mr Irsyaad. This folding feature is also useful during peak hours, saving space when the trains get very crowded.
The students also have other ideas for the Tap 'N' Sit system.
"In food outlets, you (sometimes) have people hogging the space to study," said Mr Irsyaad. "So, (our idea is) after you buy something, you will be issued a card. You tap the card on the seat and you will be entitled to the seat for the duration of the meal... It prevents seat-hogging."
Fellow student inventor Ong Zheng Jie hopes Tap 'N' Sit will be adopted in other countries. "In countries like Japan, there are priority seats. But they are like our reserved seats and not specifically for senior citizens.
"We hope (our) idea can be used in other countries as well, and not just in Singapore."
This article by The Business Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.