‘Wow,’ and the 2011 IPI Show
I set out on the last day of the 2011 IPI Conference and Expo to find new products. You know, the ones that make you go “wow.” If “wow” means something that will change the face of the industry (such as prox cards, pay-by-credit-card or pay-on-foot), then I failed.
The comments I heard from many attendees and exhibitors was that a lot of the products were “same old, same old,” and that others were similar to existing products, but with new outside designs. That is, new paint, “new skins,” new “look,” but not a lot of new technology.
In Europe, the major industry shows are scheduled on an every-other-year basis. Manufacturers use these events as a “launch” for new products.
We like to think that technology moves rapidly; however, in our industry, it’s a tad more glacial. It’s one thing to develop a cell phone that’s also a camera, computer and Game Boy, with your potential marketplace at a billion users. Huge upfront investment is made based on a high-end outcome. Pushing the product to market is necessary and desirable.
However, when your potential market is limited in a niche such as parking, things move more slowly. Often, mockups are shown at trade shows to gauge a reaction. Design flaws that went unnoticed in the lab now become apparent, and then adjustments are made as the product finds its way to market.
This process on an every-other-year schedule can mean that new ideas can be test-shown at the industry event and then either put forward or dropped over the upcoming 24 months; a “final” product can be displayed; or a new set of ideas put forward.
When the show runs every year, manufacturers are hard-pressed to keep ahead of the “wow” factor. Often, a year isn’t enough time to forge a new product or take a new design from the drawing board to reality.
That being said, I do think that some manufacturers showing at IPI made great progress where product enhancement is concerned.
For instance, Park Assist is a parking guidance company that is partnering with Amano McGann. Last year, its product – based on using CCTV to determine open parking spaces and red/green lights to guide parkers to them – added a new twist. The camera would “read” your license plate and then you could enter the plate when you paid and the system would tell you where your car was parked.
This year, Park Assist added an LPR camera on entry. When you arrive, your license number is “attached” to the ticket you received on entry. When you leave, the process of inserting your ticket at a pay-on-foot also called up your vehicle and presented a picture of the location of your car. No need to enter a plate number (and perhaps key it in improperly). It’s fast and efficient.
Another such example is the Luke II by Digital Payment Technologies (DPT). The company took its successful Luke multi-space paystation and expanded on a theme. Luke II not only covers P-and-D and P-by-S, but also has license plate input; allows a ton of payment options; and enables the user to pay-by-cell and then be notified by text when the parking time is nearing its limit, and enables the user to update payment from his or her phone, if allowed.
DPT’s new paystation product has many enhancements in design in both the way money is handled and the robust nature of the enclosure.
At this year’s IPI show, I noted that virtually all single-space meter companies were providing a “pay by credit card” facility on their meters. Let’s face it, the market was crying for this technology, one company led the pack, and now others are bringing the enhancement to their products.
Many companies added electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to their product lines. It was difficult to walk down an aisle without seeing these in abundance.
Some supplied the charging stations as standalone units to be purchased by garages as benefits for potential parkers. Other companies (such as in revenue control) saw them as add-ons so their equipment could collect money from the charging stations as well as for parking.
Brand spanking new? No, there were a number of such charging stations last year. However, this year, many manufacturers jumped on the sustainability band wagon and provided these products.
Reduce expenses and go “green” by selecting lighting that uses less power. Pay your monthly parking at a POF with a credit card. In-street sensors provide data for occupancy and rate determination. “Cloud computing” was noted in a number of booths – locate your computer hardware off-site and do away with the limitations of on-site data centers. It was all there.
Next year, expect some of these products to have been moved aside and others to take their places. Perhaps I am jaded, but for me, “wow” is when a company takes a product and makes it better, makes it work and makes it fit the marketplace. I saw some of those. And I did say “wow.”
John Van Horn is Founder, Publisher and Editor of Parking Today. This article was underwritten by ACS, a Xerox Co.