Technology South of the Border and Overseas
January, 2012Over Thanksgiving week, the master and I had the opportunity to visit the 2011 TranspoQuip Latin America expo in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Aside from the PT and IPI group of speakers, this was not an event that drew many Americans.
The expo was about more than parking; it was transportation as a whole – rail, seaports, airports, highways, event/stadiums (Brazil will host both the 2014 Soccer World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics) and local street traffic control devices.
The PARCS section of the show was not as large as we have seen at some U.S. shows; however, I did not see a single system or piece of equipment being offered by the traditional system vendors we are accustomed to seeing in the U.S. What this did permit was an unbiased look at systems and equipment that I have not seen at U.S. shows.
I found three items of particular interest:
Quick Response (QR) two-dimensional barcode. Now stop reading, pull out your cellphone and snap the QR code in the cartoon below to see where and how quickly it will take you to a source. (If you haven’t done so, download a QR app from your phone’s app store; it’s free and takes just a few seconds.)
We are seeing these QR codes in print, on signs and now in the parking industry. It’s a method of providing a validation or a coupon (and, as introduced at the NPA show, a way to gain entry and pay at a parking facility). The application I observed in Sao Paulo was the QR code on a monthly access card. Scan the barcode and you were inside your monthly account, which was hosted on the PARCS at the garage level. I repeat, the garage level, not in the corporate mainframe in Chicago, Nashville, TN, San Francisco, or Hartford, CT, but right in the garage-level PARCS.
I could do updates to the data in my account, print an invoice, make a credit card payment, see my card usage for the past 30 days, and leave an electronic message for the system operator and receive a confirmation and/or a receipt!
Electronic Wallet/Purse. This is an adaption of near-field communication (NFC) technology. In the U.S., service providers Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility and T-Mobile USA have teamed as the ISIS mobile commerce network to permit the cellphone to become the credit card for tomorrow. Apple iPhone and Google ‘Droid have already rolled out their apps in limited releases.
Within the ISIS app, you enter which credit card you want to use to pay for items at a credit card terminal. When it’s time to pay, simply touch your cellphone to the terminal and the transaction is complete. No more fumbling for your wallet or purse, no more mag stripes that are unreadable, and no more handing your credit card to the attendant / cashier to process (and maybe copy / clone your number).
Monthly Parking Payment, Invoicing and A/R software. For years, this was available only from the corporate level of your parking operator, which had invested heavily in creating a monthly billing and accounting system (and also a profit center for doing the invoicing and bookkeeping). Individual garage-based PARCS simply did not have the capability to do this type of accounting and accounts receivable reporting.
Today, with the speed, memory and complexity of the PC’s running a full-fledged account and invoicing system at the garage level is easily available, and I strongly recommend using it. There’s no longer the need to have a central office sitting someplace far away and removed from the daily action of the garage to provide this service and generate an additional profit for an operator at an owner’s expense.
At the expo, I also was amazed to see more and more options of using Facebook and Twitter as a marketing tool, data collection, customer focus on garage issues, as well as a method of correspondence between the garage and its customer base.
There is, however, a drawback to using emerging technology. We sometimes tend to think that this refers to a bigger, better, faster or “sexier” PARC system. What this really means is that we need to better train our frontline employees on how to manage and operate these systems. Just installing them and providing only the most basic of training is simply not cost effective. Ongoing training is required.
As garage managers are transferred from location to location, that learned base of knowledge stays with the individual and does not reside at the location. In a short time, after a few transfers of personnel, it’s a miracle that the staff can even sign on to the PARC system, let alone know how to effectively use the tools being provided.
As I have spoken with others in our industry about this – including system vendors, software manufacturers, operators and other consultants – it is believed that, at a minimum, we are leaving 10% to as much as 40% of collectable revenue uncollected simply because we do not properly train and retrain, enforce existing policies, or at the very basic, even employ individuals who have the fundamental skills set on which we can build and train them.
So-called “warm body” HR recruitment is outdated and needs to advance at the same speed as the technology we are employing in our facilities.
Now, if you really want to see where parking and technology will be a few years down the road, alter your parking show travel schedule. First, go to the Parking Today-sponsored 2012 Parking Industry Exhibition (PIE) March 18-21 in Chicago for the best seminars in the business.
Then, for the same cost as attending the Show in Phoenix, you can see what lies in store for the USA five to eight years into the future by attending the Intertraffic exposition March 27-30 in Amsterdam.
The biennial Amsterdam Intertraffic is an event that every parking professional should experience. It’s the most authoritative technology trade event in the world having to do with developments in the fields of infrastructure, ITS traffic management, safety and parking.
This year, some 800 exhibitors from more than 45 countries are expected, as are 25,000-plus attendees. About 200 of the companies are from the parking industry worldwide and will use this show to launch their new products.
And going to a coffee shop in Amsterdam is not the same as going to a Starbucks.