Leveraging Technology Trends
‘Cloud’ – Based Mobile Parking Access and Revenue Control System
By Barney Pell
As an entrepreneur, angel investor and venture capitalist, I see six key trends that are reshaping the way business is conducted in the digital age. These are “cloud computing,” mobile, personal, local, social and context.
At the center of the trends is the shift to cloud computing, where data and software can be updated and accessed from anywhere at any time, rather than being “trapped” in a particular unit of hardware.
For the parking industry, there are many benefits.
Since operators can put rate-tables and occupancy data “in the cloud,” they can change rates dynamically and reflect the changes at point-of-sale or even while customers are searching for parking on the web or mobile devices. This also enables web-based reservations using the freshest occupancy data, and web-based coupons.
Moreover, when all historical customer and occupancy data are put in the cloud, they can then be analyzed in real-time, enabling better decisions about marketing, pricing, accounting, auditing and enforcement. Once data are transparent and accessible, the possibilities are endless.
In today’s digital world, it’s impossible to ignore the mobile trend around us. Mobile phones are almost universal, and most urban customers now carry smartphones everywhere they go.
As its name suggests, the capabilities of a smartphone go beyond making calls. They are mobile computers, capable of sensing their environment, providing interactive graphical displays, and connecting to any cloud-based data and services.
The system allows these mobile devices to communicate with legacy infrastructure such as parking meters, enforcement systems or even gate arms in parking facilities. In the case of gate arms, with a Quick Pay mobile app, users can discover nearby garages, and upon arrival, use the app as a modernized garage door opener to “check in” to the garage and raise the gate arm for entry.
In the back-end, their activities are logged in the cloud, providing personal and vehicle data for tracking and enforcement. At exit, users are assessed and charged the appropriate parking fee to a credit card that is stored in their cloud-based “wallet.” All this happens without ever having to use a paper ticket or take out their physical wallets.
In this way, owners and operators can leverage the mobile trend to transform parking infrastructure, reducing the need for parking meters or costly parking garage equipment. Beyond saving money, mobile payment systems offer an ideal way to deliver coupons, reservations and special event pricing.
Combining the power of mobile with the cloud, it’s now possible to establish a deep level of personalization and customer intimacy. The system knows the license plate and description of each parked vehicle using it. Beyond that, it knows concretely who each user is, and how often they park at any given facility. Distinguishing a one-time customer from a repeat customer is now as easy as tapping into the cloud.
With a better understanding of individual customers, powerful, personalized loyalty programs can be developed. Prices, too, can be personalized and tailored to fit the needs of individuals. The practice that has been so successful in the airline and hotel industries is now a patented system and available for all parking operations with virtually instant deployment and no infrastructure costs.
Another force that helps bring these all together is the local trend. The system uses a technique known as geo-fencing. It maintains a cloud-based database of the geographic footprint of all parking facilities. Then the system matches the location of a user’s mobile device against the facility database to recognize when a user is near or has entered a parking facility. It can then also deliver coupons, ads and rate information, and process transactions all in one seamless experience.
More time is spent on Facebook than any other website, and the social trend is staggering. Users can tell their networks when they park or leave a space, and how much they liked a parking facility. And by offering social coupons, users can pass on good parking opportunities to their friends.
Finally, the trend toward context allows an opportunity to reach customers with the right offering exactly at the right moment. By linking parking to customer goals and tasks, for instance, our QP QuickPay can market restaurant parking with dinner reservations or event parking with ticket purchases.
Until now, parking facility owners and operators have had to rely on costly installed equipment that is slow to change and limited in connection to users and other systems. As they start to feed operations and customer data to the cloud and take advantage of the location-aware mobile computers in the hands of their customers, they can leverage the mobile, personal, local, social and contextual trends that are transforming the parking industry and the world.
Barney Pell is Chairman of Onti Corp., a mobile, location-aware parking access and payments company. QP QuickPay, its cloud-based PARC system, is designed to integrate with any legacy parking infrastructure. www.qpme.com.
Article Abstract from December, 2011