Magazine

Parking Software: The Developer and the Parking Environment

Chuck Genung


These days, just about everyone in the parking industry has automated operations to one extent or another. There have been dramatic changes since the days of "home-grown" mainframe applications used primarily to feed financial systems. These programs were usually inflexible and provided scant information to the parking office for enforcement or permit issuance operations. The shoebox filled with index cards was more the rule than the exception.
The PC server, networks, mainframe interaction and Web interaction have changed the way agencies can do business. Higher education embraced these technological advances and, in some cases, created more along the way. Now the role of the university has often shifted from program developer to program definer.
The parking department is not the only sector within the university that relies on efficient data management. Everyone from finance to the registrar and in-between has their particular overlapping requirements. Information Technology sorts through these needs and, with their knowledge of available technology, assembles the specifications. Private sector software houses are then invited to develop parking software that satisfy these specifications utilizing advanced technology.
Private sector software developers supply the tools for the management of parking and the interaction between parking agencies and other departments. Parking offices both feed and accept information so that all departments operate more efficiently in providing services and managing created revenue. The software developers respond to client requests, but also serve as innovators, taking a concept and broadening the scope and breadth of the application. The private sector works with many diverse agencies and brings this operational diversity to the table. Municipalities, hospitals and private operators are beneficiaries of these advancements, and oftentimes are also leaders in innovation.
So what's new? What are some of the benefits of this synergy?
The functionality that really jumps out is virtually all Web-related. I'll talk about some of these features later, but there are other great benefits that are relatively new but often overlooked. Let's look at a few:
Ease of Use is a phrase found in almost all product literature and RFP's. Software needs to be easy to use, and mistakes must be easily corrected. Modern software provides these features, and developers continue to fine-tune easy-to-use programs that provide more and more functions.
Software that is Intuitive in design more readily allows the user, who often is not very computer-literate, to jump right into using these applications. Office staff can capitalize on their knowledge of how the business works and their experience as parking professionals. The more intuitive in design, the less foreign the software looks and feels.
Interactive software readily communicates sending and receiving information to other databases. Batch processing of files is still commonplace, but more modern applications also provide real-time updates and query capability necessary in some environments. Multiple databases share information in a secure environment in a real-time manner.
The Web has enabled us to move into a virtually limitless source of information. It has revolutionized our entire society and will continue to do so. This revolution has also greatly impacted the role and function of parking offices. The Web has not only provided information and tools to the parking office, but also has empowered the "outsider" to demand services accessible from the Web. People now know the power of the Web in their daily lives. If they can do their shopping from their easy chair, why not pay their parking tickets or order their parking permits online?
Software developers and vendors have been quick to respond to these requests. These online features, for good or bad, impact all our operations. When you can distribute thousands of permits in minutes through the use of modern software and the Internet, it is bound to impact our businesses.
The evolution of parking software will continue, with public and private sectors working together to solve problems. None of us has a crystal ball, and that adds to the enjoyment and satisfaction we derive from what we do.

Chuck Genung is the creator of the AIMS parking management system. He can be reached at chuck@edc-aim.com

Article Abstract from January, 2005




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