Technology in Parking

December, 2011

A Means or an End?

By Alex Israel and Sam Friedman

PT Editor John Van Horn asked us to put together an article on emerging tech. Of course, we could have taken the approach of self-promotion; instead, we decided to go in another direction and talk about the difference between technological innovation (emerging technologies) and business solutions poised as innovation.
JVH had asked readers, in a Sept. 30 PT Blog post (“IBM and IPI – Wow!”): “Does a ‘gizmo’ on a post or a new app actually help the parker, or add to the frustration?” Our response is quite simple: Many of these gizmos add to the frustration!
In an industry riddled with innovation, we’re also inundated with companies “muddling the water” with gizmos that just add to the frustration.
As the late Steve Jobs said, “Innovation … [sometimes comes from] shoot[ing] holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. …” While many of these “innovations” propose a solution, many fail because they forget the problem! And what’s the problem in our industry? Parking – for the driver – is frustrating!
The first step to innovating within the parking industry is to truly understand the aforementioned problem. This is an intensive and iterative process: talking to drivers, engaging focus groups and systematically analyzing consumer parking behavior.
How many gizmo inventors, app developers or solution providers actually spend time talking with drivers (and with parking professionals) to understand the market before deeming it “broken” and releasing their solutions?
Many of their solutions are riddled with inefficiencies and almost always lack consumer-user adoption.
When we first entered the industry, we faced an uphill battle. Many “tech start-ups” that had come before us – not all of them – had left a wake of failed promises, ineptitude, ill-conceived solutions and a plethora of dead applications.
Technological innovation should be pursued in an attempt to increase the efficiency or effectiveness of an existing industry (e.g., iTunes for the music industry and Expedia for the travel industry). Innovation should address the zeitgeist, evaluate a problem and provide a solution.
So, let’s get tangible and evaluate a few facts about the problem: We’re in a recession, location-based services and smartphones are growing in abundance, and in the eyes of a driver, parking remains frustrating.
As such, we in the parking industry need to concentrate on developing technologies that are low-cost, location-based, and available via applications or devices that drivers are already using.
This is as opposed to products that are poised as emerging technology but are, instead, repackaged old tech (inefficient, expensive and clunky), and are, therefore, ineffective at solving the problem at hand.
Solutions that work understand the market, understand user behavior and take a disruptive approach to change pre-conceived norms.
We’re not sure how to end this piece, so we’ll leave you with a quote from the Apple Inc. “Think Different” advertising campaign on innovators, created with the LA office of ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day:
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. …”
Alex Israel and Sam Friedman, Founders of Parking In Motion, can be reached through www.parkinginmotion.com.